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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Gentilini wines flying under the radar - part 2

When we talk about Mavrodaphne, we automatically think of the sweet, often poorly produced Mavrodaphne of Patras.  Very few know that there are certain parts of Greece that produce dry wines from this grape variety.  Cephalonia's red wine appellation is called Mavrodaphne of Cephalonia and requires the grapes to be grown in specific zones on the island.  Dry styles of wine made from this grape are made in small quantities and the majority of the wines are produced in the Western part of the country.

In 2002 when Marianna & Petros took over control of the winery from Marianna's father, the estate was planted with 3 hectares of Sauvignon Blanc & Chardonnay.  In 2006 the couple decided to remove these vines and replant them with Mavrodaphne of Cephalonia.  This was done primarily to keep with their vision of promoting local varieties while highlighting their potential.

For a small winery, this decision was a risky ones since the vineyards had to sit inactive for 2 years until they were able to replant in 2008.  After the vineyards were replanted they had to wait an additional 3 years for the new vines to crop, vinify, mature, etc.... In all the lead time until the first vintage was released was 7 years!!

In order to begin production, Marianna & Petros decided to buy top quality grapes from a specific producer within the appellation zone.  In 2008 just a few days after a lunar eclipse, the first grapes were picked, thus giving birth to the name.  The wine was tasted by professionals from around the world and all were enthusiastic about its potential.  The 08 production was sold out within 3 months of its release.

According to Marianna, "The 2009 is looking superb. It was bottled a few days aging and will be released towards the end of 2011".

Gentilini Eclipse 2008
For the inaugural vintage, the winery bought the Mavrodaphne grapes from a single vineyard site within the appellation zone near the village of Lixouri.  The Mavrodaphne grape is grown on clay soils with no irrigation.  Yields are extremely low - 3 tons per hectare.  The winter on the island was quite rainy then followed by a hot & dry spring & summer.

Vinification: After harvest, all grapes are brought to the winery for vinification and bottling.  The bunches are de-stemmed and crushed.  Both fermentation & extraction takes place in open stainless steel vats.  Every 6 hours the wine is pumped over and punched down in order to extract the desired color and flavor from the skins and to develop complexity.  Additionally, the fermenting skins are pressed and the juice is added to the fermenting vat where it completes fermentation.
Malolactic fermentation is then induced and the wine is transferred to French barriques and let to mature for 12 months.  Once cask maturation is complete the wine is transferred to bottle and is left to age another 23 months before release.

In 2008, only 1700 bottles were produced.

Tasting notes: I was able to taste this wine as a barrel sample earlier this year but it was still too young to form any lasting opinions on it.  Its potential is definitely there and since I do not have too much experience or exposure to 100% dry Mavrodaphne, I will revisit the samples I have in my cellar over time to see how they progress.  I do hope to get my hands on some 2008 to try in the near future....

According to the winery, this wine is inky black in color with complex, intense aromas of red fruit and notes of licorice and wild mint.  In the mouth it is rich & complex with soft, round tannins and a persistently long finish.  It is recommended to pair with rich meat dishes and aged cheeses.

Since 2008 was the first bottling & release, its aging potential isn't known yet.  All we can do is wait and see how it develops over time.  In early 2011 a small quantity will be sold through New York's Molyvos Restaurant. Hopefully Petros will have some sampels for us during the 2011 Road Show.....

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