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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Gentilini wines flying under the radar - part 1

In the Ionian Sea lies Cephalonia.  It's an mountainous island with many vineyard areas still unaffected by phylloxera.  The island's most important grape variety to date is Robola, which is not to be confused with Italy's Ribolla Gialla - they are not the same grape.  Since the early 2000's we have been working with the Gentilini Winery importing their Robola and more recently their Aspro, Syrah and Red.

Over the past few years on our trips to Greece, Marianna & Petros have been showing us new/experimental wines for our feedback.  Two of the most recent releases are the Robola Cellar Selection & Eclipse.

According to Marianna (winery owner), the main philosophy behind the decision to produce these two wines was to take the island's most important varieties - Robola & Marvrodaphne - and vinify them in a way to show their maximum potential.  After lengthy experiments with different yeasts, vinification techniques, barrel types and months of aging, they were satisfied with the results and decided to release them.

Gentilini Robola Cellar Selection 2009
Robola is a rare, ungrafted low-yielding variety that thrives on the poor limestone and gravelly soils of the island's mountainsides.  Robola is considered one of Greece's finest white varieties.  It is known for its weight and for its distinct aromas of stone fruit and citrus.

Grape Origin: Robola for the Cellar Selection come from a specific vineyard that is located 800 meters above sea level in the area of Fagia.  the vines were planted back in 1956 and are ungrafted.  The vineyard faces due south and is extremely steep.  The extended ours of sunlight, limestone (rocky) soil and low yields (2.5 tons per hectare in 2009) contribute to the intense flavors and aromas present in this wine.

Vinification: All aspects of vinificaiton are performed at the winery.  After harvest the grapes are chilled overnight to 7C and is then the whole bunch is pressed so that only 60% of the juice is extracted. This juice is then inoculated with a specific yeast and is then left to ferment for 6-8 weeks at 15C.  Once fermentation ends the wine undergoes battonage (lees stirring) for two weeks to promote the development of the wine's body and aromas.

20% of the must is fermented in French oak barrels which adds to the complexity of the wine without making it "oaky".  Once all fermentation is complete the wine is blended, stabilized and filtered before bottling.

In 2009, only 1400 bottles were produced.

Tasting notes: I originally tasted the 2008 and really liked it.  While I'm personally not a fan of oak at all in my whites, it added subtle vanilla notes that complimented the weight of Robola nicely.  The 2009 has more intense minerality to it.  It is fresh, crisp and aromatic, yet not over the top.  It has aromas of vanilla (very subtle), white peach and lemon.  It's weight is medium + with balanced acidity and a long finish.  This wine reminds me in some aspects of Chablis and would be amazing with oysters, sushi and crudo plates.  While this wines is really unique, it will never become a major presence in the US market simply because so few bottles are produced annually.  At this time you can enjoy it in New York's Molyvos restaurant on 7th Avenue between 55th & 56th streets.

We hope to have the 2010 available to taste during our 2011 Road Show....we'll see if it's ready!!

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