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Vice President Athenee Importers

Monday, January 24, 2011

1st look at the 2010 GAI'A 14-18 screw cap

2009 14-18 on the left and the 2010 on the right

GAIA has decided to move to screw caps for the Notios, 14-18 rose & Ritinitis Retsina wines.  As you can see, the new bottle (on the left) is about an inch shorter than the current bottle.  The only other difference is the new EU appellation on the label - the 2009 label has the Regional Wine of the Peloponnese and the 2010 shows the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) Peloponnese.

We hope to begin selling the all of the new 2010 wines by March.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Osso Buco & Gentilini Syrah Limited Release 2004

Gentilini Syrah 04 Limited Release Decanting

After a hectic first week back from vacation & a trip to frigid Chicago I decided to make beef Osso Buco for my husband & I. Since there was allot of meat we decided to invite a few friends over.  Since I braised the meat, I figured that a spicy Syrah would pair very well and would have enough acidity to stand up to the meat and the sauce.  Luckily, I was right.

I decided to decant the wine and did so about 2 hours before our gusts arrived.  The wine was a deep red color and surprisingly didn't show signs of age (tawny color, etc...).  The nose had opened up beautifully with aromas of spice, vanilla and ripe red berry.  On the palate, the wine's tannins had integrated beautifully and the acidity was balanced.  Flavors were consistent to the nose and had a pleasant finish. Unfortunately I only had one bottle of this wine and the group was disappointed when we quickly finished it.

The Gentilini S Limited Release Syrah is a wine produced in very limited quantities (about 600 bottles per vintage) annually to commemorate the winery's status as one of the country's oldest boutique wineries (they've been producing wines for over 20 years).  The grapes are from a single vineyard and after careful vinification it is aged for 18 months in Ermitage barrels before bottling.  This wine isn't available for sale due to its small production.  However, Marianna & Petros have been so kind as to bring bottles to me when they come for visits to the US.  Aside from the 2004, I also have a 2006 but I think I'll wait to open that on another night.

Here is my recipe for Osso Buco - it's not too complicated and the oven does most of the work for you.  I have used meat from the CSA that I belong to, 8 O'clock Ranch.  If you are on the East Coast of the US their grass fed meats are really good and are worth ordering from their site.  One note: I never use exact measurements - i always eyeball and add or subtract as necessary.  Sorry!!!

This recipe serves 4.
4 bone in beef shanks (ask your butcher to tie each one w/twine in order to keep the bone with the meat as it cooks)
flour for dredging
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (divided)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil ( I use Sitia 0.7)
salt & pepper
1/2 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced onion
2-3 garlic cloves finely chopped
1 14oz can of diced tomato or plum tomatoes coarsely chopped (you can add a 2nd can if you want more sauce)
1 1/2 cup white wine
2 teaspoons Beef Demi glace (if you have it)
low sodium beef or chicken stock (whatever you have on hand - I prefer Kitchen Basics brand)
Bouquet garni: 6 parsley sprigs, 4-5 fresh thyme springs, 2 fresh rosemary springs & a bay leaf all together tied up in a cheesecloth
Garnish: finely minced parsley & lemon zest

Preheat oven to 325F

  • In a dutch oven (large enough to lay all shanks in 1 layer) heat over moderate heat 2 tbs butter with some olive oil.  Don't let the butter burn.
  • Season each shank with salt & pepper on both sides & then dredge each shank in all purpose flour (both sides).  
  • Add the coated shanks, 2 at a time to the dutch oven and sear until each side is a golden brown (about 3 minutes per side).  Remove from dutch oven and transfer to plate or rimmed baking dish & repeat with the remaining shanks.
  • Once all shanks have been browned add white wine & scrape up the brown bits.  Reduce the liquid by half.  Pour the liquid into a bowl & set aside.
  • Add the carrots, onion, celery & garlic to the reduction along with the remaining butter and some olive oil if it begins to look a bit dry.  Cook until the vegetables have softened (about 6-8 minutes).
  • After about 3 minutes, add the beef demi glace if you have it and stir to combine.  You may need to add some stock at this point to soften it.
  • Once the vegetables are softened, add back the reduced wine to the pot and then nestle the shanks on top of the vegetables.  Pour the can of tomatoes over the shanks.  Add enough liquid (stock) so that it comes up almost all the way up each shank and put the bouquet garni on top.  Bring the liquid to a rolling boil. Cover and put in the pre-heated oven.
  • Bake for 2 - 2 1/2 hours, until meat is practically falling off the bone
  • Carefully remove the shanks form the sauce and cover with foil to keep warm (this is where the tied up shank will keep the meat from falling apart in the sauce & causing you to fish around for it)
  • If there is allot of liquid, bring to a simmering boil uncovered to reduce the sauce.  Remove from heat.  Taste & adjust seasonings as needed (salt & pepper).
  • If you like a smoother sauce (I do), use an immersion blender on a low speed to blend.  Alternatively you can put some of the sauce into the blender and puree it then add it back to the rest of the sauce.  Place shanks back in the sauce and let them rest.
  • Plate the shanks and sprinkle with some minced parsley, lemon zest if you have it on hand to jazz up the presentation.
You can make this dish a day or two in advance.  Cool completely and then refrigerate.  Skim off all fat that has risen to the top and then reheat.  Serve the bone & its marrow with a small fork to scoop out the good stuff & enjoy!!!

I served this with a simple salad and potato gnocchi - unfortunately, the dish was inhaled so quickly I was not able to get a picture to post!!!

Friday, January 7, 2011

New to the portfolio for 2011 - Argyros Atlantis Rose

I am pleased to announce that this spring we will be including the Argyros Atlantis Rose 2010 to our portfolio.

Atlantis rose is a blend of 80% Assyrtiko, 20% Mandilaria
It's color is a vibrant rosy red - which is brought forth from the Mandilaria grape. Aromas of strawberry, apple and cherry fill the nose & mouth. The relatively high acidity of Assyrtiko gives it a crisp freshness.
This wine pairs extremely well with Asian cuisine, light chicken and pork dishes.  Expect its arrival around March/April 2011.  We will have samples to taste at our 2011 Road Show.

Monday, January 3, 2011

A peak into the mind of an importer - an open letter to wineries seeking representation

As an importer of product from Greece, 2010 was a challenging one.  Strikes were once again a huge thorn in our side - it's extremely frustrating to have orders for product that you cannot fill.  Hopefully 2011 will bring an end to the turmoil in Greece and an end to strikes that aside form plunging Greece further down the economic spiral, will help us meet demand with steady supply.  It may be wishful thinking but it's January - one can still be optimistic, right?

With the bleak economic picture in Greece, many wineries are looking to sell their product out of Greece.  Many feel that they will at least get paid in a timely manner by those other than their compatriots.  Over the past few months, we have received inquiries, samples and telephone calls from many wineries - some already known and others up and coming.  What amazes me is that there are MANY people involved in the Greek wine industry that have not done their homework and think that it is easy to export their product.  I have sat with potential suppliers and when I begin to ask them questions about their products, philosophy, vision and future plans, I am met with a blank stare.

As a result, I think that to start the year off right, I will give those hopeful of exporting to the US market a bit of insight as to what is needed & what to expect.  This doesn't just apply to Greeks - hopefully this information will be useful to wineries from other parts of the world as well.

If you are a winery looking to approach an importer, here are a few key points that you need to be prepared for:
1. Familiarize yourself with an importer's existing portfolio.  Every reputable importer has a website.  Go through a list of the wineries already being imported - do your wines fit a hole in the importer's portfolio or is it similar to other wines already being imported?  In many instances, importers are looking to offer their distributors a well rounded portfolio with wines from all regions of the country.  If you see a gap somewhere, that can be an opportunity to have your wines and winery taken into consideration.

2. Pricing.  Are you going to charge for your wines in Euro or in Dollars? If you are charging in Euro, your wine, without even factoring in freight, taxes, etc... will already be about 30-40% more expensive. You need to factor this into your price offering.  No matter how great a wine is, by the time you factor in FX rates, taxes, freight and traditional markup, it will cost reasonably more than what you sell it for in your home country.   As a result of the financial collapse, many wineries have 2, maybe 3 vintages holding in tanks.  There is an immense pressure to reduce inventory whatever the cost.  You are seeing many well known wineries releasing 2nd or 3rd labels at lower price points in order to move through their stock.  You are getting great values in this category and while it may be only for the short term, there is enough stock to supply demand for the next year or two (or three).  The bottom line is that you are competing against the world's wines for market share - buyers are driven by price. Even if the wine is good but they feel the price is too high, they will pass over it because there will be 5 wines similar to it waiting to fill the slot.

3. Labeling. I have seen my share of hideous labels from many countries.  You would think that with the globalization of wine, labels would become modern, cleaner, easier to read.  In the US having an English only labels is key.  One of the worst things I see is the use of the cliche Greek columns, warrior heads, etc....  Americans buy with their eyes - if they think a label looks cool they tend to buy the wine.  If the label looks like it's out of the 1980s, your potential customer will pass your wine over for something more appealing. On your back label, include 2-3 sentences describing your wine.  Give the customer just enough info to get them interested in the wine so they take it home & experience it for themselves. Keep the labels clean, simple and in English.

4. Develop POS/Marketing material.  Since many consumers are easily influenced by the written word, POS like shelf talkers and info sheets are crucial.  You do not need to go to the expense of actually printing them - having it available on your or the importer's website is all that is needed.  Those that need the info will print it themselves.  Having a plan in place to present to a potential importer shows us that you are serious about the US market and want to invest in it.

5. Spend time in the market.  The only way you will really learn the market is to spend time in it.  As importers, our schedules are filled with market visits, education and promotional activities.  There are only so many hours in the day.  If you want your wine to sell, you need to establish a connection with sales reps and buyers. Even one visit a year can establish relationships that will help your wine's sales in the long run.  You need to be prepared to visit a minimum of once a year for a week to 10 days.  Importers realize the cost associated with this and we truly appreciate it.  We will pack your schedule and  make you work 'till you drop:-)

6. Be prepared for the long run.  

7. Be available electronically.  As with anyone in business these days, quick responses to e-mails & texts is essential.  There are times when we are in the market and a question comes up that needs addressing.   While I'm not an advocate of constant connectivity, a reply within 24 hours is greatly appreciated.

This is just the tip of the iceberg.  I have not even begun to discuss the legal aspects of importing.  Those are subjects that importers guide you through once you decide to work together.  The bottom line is that working with a winery as a long term relationship.  We like to connect on a personal level as well as on a professional one.  It's important to be able to put a personality to a wine & brand and it helps make things more "real".

The first quarter of 2011 will be a busy one for us with the Road Show and the release of the 2010 vintage.  I wish you all the best for 2011!!