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Vice President Athenee Importers

Sunday, February 20, 2011

First look: GAIA Notios White 2010

The new look for Notios White 

Since the late 1990s, when we began working with GAIA Wines, one of the first wines we imported was the Notios White & Red.  Back then, quality wines at a good price from Greece were few and far between.  The Notios line, with its fun and quirky packaging, was a breath of fresh air in the US market. Through the 2009 vintage, those of you who have seen this wine in the market will remember that each case had 4 different labels in it.  With the 2010 vintage of both the red & white, the winery decided to modernize the package and combine all 4 labels into one.  Additionally, both the Notios Red & White are now released with screw cap closures.

The word "Notios", means south in Greek.  This reference lends itself to the wines because they both come from the southern Greek region of the Peloponnese.  The use of a Greek word to establish a brand was ingenious at that time - it's easy to read, pronounce and drink!!

The Notios White is made from a 50/50 blend of 2 indigenous southern Greek grapes - Moschofilero and Roditis.  Moschofilero grows in the Arcadia region of southern Greece - it is known for its floral aromas.   Moschofilero is a pink skinned grape that is used to make mainly white wines but is also used in rose and sparkling wines.  This grape is the only variety allowed in the Mantinia appellation.  In blends, Moschofilero is used typically for its floral notes.  Roditis is a grape that is common across southern Greece.  It is one of the authorized grape varieties for Retsina production.  Roditis is a grape known for acidity yet lacks significant aromatics.  It has citrus flavors and aromas.  On its own, Roditis typically isn't very exciting and lends itself very well to blending.  For this wine, Roditis is used as the acidity component.  With is subdued aromatics, it gives Moschofilero the platform to shine.  Each grape is vinified separately and fermented in stainless steel.

The 2010 Notios White has aromas on the nose of flower blossoms and ripe tropical fruit.   It is medium bodied with flavors consistent to the nose in addition to citrus notes.  It has a pleasant, lengthy finish with lingering mineral and floral notes.

Notios White is a great option to serve as an aperitif or with lighter dishes such as fish, pasta and chicken.  The Notios line retails for approximately $12-$15 a bottle.

First look: GAIA 14-18 2010

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

Last week we received our first shipment of GAIA Wines 14-18h 2010.  This wine has been part of Athenee's portfolio since we first began working with the winery in 1997.  Every year its popularity continues to grow and has been a wonderful introduction to Greek wine for many a consumer.

14-18h is made from 100% Agiorgitiko that is grown on high altitude (800m above sea level) vineyards in the Nemea region of the Peloponnese.  The grapes grown at this altitude tend to be more aromatic and this lends perfectly to the idea behind this wine. The name, 14-18h, refers to the number of hours the skin and juice remain in contact for color extraction.  On average, most rose wines have less extraction time (on average it's about 6-10 hours depending on the style of wine you are going for).  In this case, 14-18 has an intense plum color and in some vintages it bordered on fuchsia.  Many mistake the wine for a lighter red as opposed to a rose.

One of the most significant changes to come to this wine is that it is now available in a screw cap.  As you can see from the picture above, the 2009 (on the right) bottle was taller and for many on the buy side of the business, the bottle was too tall to fit on a shelf or in the refrigerator easily.  The new bottle is about 2 inches shorter and remedies complaints we've had in the past.

GAIA decided to move to screw cap last year after the winery's owner and chief oenologist, Yiannis Paraskevopoulos, went to Australia.  In the past, you could not broach the topic of screw caps with him without hearing a lecture against it.  Somehow on this trip he had an epiphany and all of the 2010 vintage of their value wines (Notios Red & White, 14-18h & Ritinitis Restina) will be released in screw cap.

I had the opportunity to try the 2010 vintage this weekend.  True to years past, the color of this wine is a ruby red.  On the nose, bright cherry and raspberry aromas are found.  On the palate, the flavors continue from the nose.  This year I was pleased to find that the acidity was a bit higher along with notes of persistent minerality.  The finish was medium in length and pleasant.  This wine is always in my wine fridge because it pairs well with so many different types of food.  I especially love this wine with turkey - it has just the right amount of tannin and acidity to compliment it.  Even though we are moving into spring, keep this in mind for next fall.

GAIA 14-18 retails around $15-$17 a bottle.  The 2010 vintage will be making its way through the distribution channels over the next few months and will be readily available across the US by May, if not sooner.

First look at the Argyros Atlantis Rose 2010

Last week our first shipments of 2010 white & rose wines arrived.  Weather in NY this winter has been a bit harsh and I was worried the first containers of the year would meet with rough weather and shock the wines. Luckily we unloaded everything with above freezing temperatures and all was well.

In our portfolio we have offered two rose wines every year - GAIA 14-18h and the Spiropoulos Meliasto.  In recent years we have offered a third rose from various producers to see if they would work or not.  Unfortunately, the options we tried, albeit that the wine was good, never really translated into strong enough sales to justify permanently including it in our portfolio moving forward.

Two years ago when we were in Santorini, we tasted the Argyros Atlantis Rose.  I had fond memories of the wine and thought it would make a good addition.  To my chagrin, I was overruled that year and another producer's rose was added instead.  The Atlantis Rose kept nagging at the back of my brain and when the opportunity arose to work with it, we took it.

The Argyros Estate is one of Santorini's oldest wineries and wine producing families.  The Argyros family has been producing wine commercially since the early1900s.  The winery is famous for their Vin Santo dessert wines in addition to their still wines.  The Atlantis line is the company's value line with all wines selling on the shelf under $20 a bottle.  This line includes Atlantis white, rose and red.

Atlantis Rose is a blend of 80% Assyrtiko and 20% Mandilaria.  Assyrtiko is Santorini's main white grape variety that is known for its intense minerality.  Mandilaria is a red grape that grows throughout the southern islands of Greece such as Rhodes, Crete, Paros and Santorini.  Mandilaria is known for its fruit notes, light to medium body and soft tannin.  

Even though this wine is made from only 20% Mandilaria, it has a bright purple-ruby red color that would make you think that the percentages were different.  On the nose, ripe cherry aromas were present.  On the palate, the Assyrtiko really made itself known - the palate was intense, high acid and mineral.  The Mandilaria was present and gave the wine a pretty ripe berry flavor.  

I had this wine at a BYO pizza joint in Brooklyn and it paired beautifully.  The acidity cleansed the palate and the fruit paired very well with the pepperoni and tomato sauce.  It will work very well with Asian and Indian cuisine in addition to grilled meats and Ahi tuna steaks.  I am pretty confident that this wine will be one of my staples this spring/summer.

For those of you who like the softer, lighter rose wines, the Atlantis Rose isn't for you. The acidity alone on this wine will catch you off guard.  For those who prefer more structure to their rose wines, you will be very happy with it.

The Atlantis Rose will start making its way into various markets this spring and will retail around $15-$17 a bottle.