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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

1st Look - Mercouri Foloi 2011 with its Updated Label

With the 2011 vintage, the Mercouri Estate has updated several of its labels for a fresher, more modern look.  Within the next 2 weeks we will receive the 2011 Mercouri Foloi White in both 750ml & 375ml sizes.  This style of label will also start to appear on some of the Estate's other labels as well.

2011 Mercouri Foloi Label

2010 Mercouri Foloi label

The wine will carry the new EU appellation classification of PGI Peloponnese, which replaces the Regional Wine of Peloponnese classification of the previous system.

Mercouri Foloi White remains a blend of 85% Roditis grown on the higher altitude "Foloi" vineyards and 15% Viognier for aromatics.

It should make its way into general distirbution over the next month or so.  Those attending the Athenee Importers Roadshow in Seattle, Portland OR, Chicago & NYC will be able to taste it there.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Mastiha Production - a fascinating process

Earlier this month I posted an announcement regarding a new distillery we will begin working with from the island of Chios - Stoupakis Chios Distillery.  I have been doing some research on the process and it's quite fascinating.  Mastiha production is still a labor intense process with a mastic harvest still done by hand.

Prepping for Mastiha harvest
Before tapping the mastiha tree, the area at the base of the tree is swept clear of any debris and foreign matter.

Prepping the ground
Once the ground is swept clean, a white powder is spread around the base of the tree to collect the mastic as it drips from the tree

Tapping the Mastiha tree
Incisions are made into the tree trunk at various points to encourage the flow of Mastiha sap

The Mastiha flows in drips down the tree where it then lands in the white powder.  Once it dries there, it becomes hard and forms clumps. 

Separating the Mastiha
The hardened Mastiha is then separated from the powder and sent to the distillery for further processing.
Here is an example of cleaned Mastiha before distillation.

Now that the Mastiha is at the plant, here is the production process:
Step 1: Sugar & Water are mixed together until the sugar is dissolved in the water

Step 2:  The natural Mastic oil  from the Mastiha sourced from the trees is combined with alcohol (96% ABV) whose agricultural origin is molasses.  They are stirred until the oil has dissolved into thealcohol base.

Step 3: The solutions in step 1 & 2 are combined

Step 4: Once combined, the mixture is filtered

Step 5: The finished product is then bottled and released

There you have it.  It's old school but the end product is delicate in aroma and flavor.  Can't wait to get it here in the next month or so!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Guest Post - 2011 Gentilini Harvest Report - Cephalonia

This post focuses on the Ionian island of Cephalonia and the Gentilini Winery.  You can also follow the winery on Twitter at @petrosgentilini

Gentilini Winery

2011 Harvest Report - Cephalonia

Cephalonia had 780mm of rain compared to an average of 1100mm so it was somewhat dryer than usual. However, this did not cause any problems.

The vines flowered well in May and it was dry and windy, perfect for pollination.
It rained in June, and the Robola grown in the valley was hit by Downy Mildew. However, the Robola grown on the slopes were spared. This is where we source our Robola.

The growing and ripening season was delayed by 10 days.

The Tsaoussi and Sauvignon Blanc were harvested in the 2nd week of August with good fruit and sugars.
The Robola ripened slowly, concentrating flavours, and came in around August 25.
The Agiorgitiko, Syrah and Mavrodaphne all came in during the first 15 days of September. All the reds had super concentrated fruit with a fantastic balance between sugar and acidity.

Overall the 2011 vintage was good in quality, although the whites were low in quantity.   

Marianna Kosmetatos, Owner - Gentilini Winery

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

New Olive Oil Producer - Lantzanakis Estate

With the turmoil happening in Greece, many growers of olives for olive oil have decided to bypass selling to the cooperatives and to strike out on their own.  For many years Athenee has been working with the Cooperative of Sitia for their wine & spirits and their olive oils.  The Sitia olive oils have been extremely popular here in the US.  The quality and flavor are recognized as some of the best in the world.

Unfortunately, we have been plagued by poor harvests the past 2 years and have had inconsistent inventory levels.  In order to keep customers happy, we have decided to begin working with a private grower in addition to working with the Cooperative. In the last quarter of 2011 we began importing small quantities of PDO Sitia 0.3 and USDA Certified Krya EVOO from the Lantzanakis Estate.  Pricing has been competitive and quality consistent - customers are happy and that makes us happy.

By April 2012 we will also begin importing the Estate's PDO Sitia EVOO with an acidity level between 0.5-0.7%.  The flavor is practically the same as the cooperative's - after all, they were selling it to the cooperative for bottling up until recently.

Lantzanakis Estate offers PDO Sitia 0.3 in glass bottles and in tin.  Krya USDA Organic EVOO is available in 500ml glass bottles only.  The PDO Sitia will be released in glass & tin as well.  We expect for this line to arrive in the US late March.  The olive oil is available in select markets across the country and online at http://www.sitiaonline.com/.

Guest Post - GAIA Wines Santorini & Nemea 2011 Harvest

This post will focus on GAIA Wines report of the harvest on both Santorini & Nemea.  On Santorini they produce the Thalassitis and Assyrtiko Wild Ferment.  Their main winery in Nemea produces the rest of the company's wines.  You can follow the winery on Twitter @GaiaWines.

GAIA Wines 2011 Harvest Report

Santorini 2011.

The main characteristic of the vintage was that July & August were rather fresh if compared to other years.  Probably the second coldest summer of the decade on the island, after the one of 2009.
That  resulted in rather slow maturation speed, fact that had a direct impact on the Assyrtiko attributes.
Grapes were extremely healthy, with a crisp acidity & minerality, as they always normally do. The bonus that derived form this rather “fresh” summer was the increase of the aromatic intensity. Wines have a more distinct fruitiness than what they do on a “conventional” harvest, such as 2010.

Nemea 2011.

An average to good vintage. An unusually wet spring led to a drop of production by an average of -25% (in some cases it drop even reached a staggering -40%) due to ravaging mildew infection.
Some sub-area of Nemea such as Koutsi or Asprocambos were exempted, mainly because of their elevation and the beneficial drying winds that prevail in these areas. In those areas Agiorgitiko matured slowly and reached good levels of sugars and polyphenols .
Pleasant aromas, soft tannins and a rather medium structure synthesize this 2011 vintage.  Definitely not as aromatic as the 2006, nor as structured as a 2007, or “accomplished” as a 2008, it remains far better that a 2009 and probably slightly inferior to a 2010.


Yiannis Paraskevopoulos, Owner & Oenologist GAIA Wines

Guest Post - 2011 Harvest report from Samos

I get many inquiries on how the harvest has been in Greece.  I have asked my wineries to provide me with Harvest reports.  As I receive the reports, I will post them here and then on my website, http://www.atheneeimporters.com/ in a section called Harvest Report.  I hope to have that up and running in the next week or so.

Here is the Harvest Report from UWC Samos:

UWC Samos

Vintage Report – Vintage 2011

2011 was a very good year for the grapes, one of the best we have seen the last years. 

The weather conditions were very favorable meaning that the rains during the winter were at a satisfactory and average amount and the summer was cool without instances of extreme heat.  The cool summer made the grapes mature gradually and naturally which led to a very satisfactory result quality-wise.

As far as diseases are concerned, compared to other vineyards in Greece, we had very little downy mildew (plasmapora viticola) which resulted in a slight reduction of the quantity and had no negative effect on quality. 

The harvest began August 8th and ended October 3rd   

Mr. Ilias Kariatoglou, Agriculturalist

Mastiha & Ouzo from Chios

After more than 2 years of searching Greece, Athenee Importers is pleased to announce that we will be launching Homericon Mastiha Liqueur and Kazanisto Ouzo from the Stoupakis Distillery from Chios.

Our anticipated launch date is April 1st in NY, NJ, DC, PA, Chicago, New Orleans and select cities on the West Coast.  Once more distribution agreements are finalized, we will post announcements on our website and on twitter @atheneewines.  

We will have both 200ml & 750ml bottle sizes available for both items.  See below.

The creation of Mastiha liqueur is a fascinating one that I am only just learning about.  Once I get schooled myself I will post my discoveries here.