About Me

My photo
Vice President Athenee Importers

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Athenee Importers 2012 Road Show Recap

Earlier this month, 11 wineries imported by Athenee Importers participated in a 4 city road show that was open to media and trade only.  This year's events marked our third year of organizing it and has proven to be the best yet.  Perhaps third time's the charm?

This year's road show stopped in the following cities:
May 8th-Seattle, WA
May 9th-Portland, OR
May 12th-Chicago, IL
May 14th-New York, NY

Here is the list of participating wineries & Regions represented:
Thymiopoulos Vineyards, Naoussa
Domaine Porto Carras, Sithonia (Halkidiki)
Ktima Pavlidis, Drama
Domaine Vassiliou/Nemeion Estate (Nemea)
Domaine Harlaftis (Attica & Nemea)
Domaine Spiropoulos (Mantinia & Nemea)
GAIA Wines (Nemea & Santorini)
Mercouri Estate (W. Peloponnese)
Gentilini Wines (Cephalonia)
Estate Argyros (Santorini)
Cooperative of Samos (Samos)

In Seattle, Chicago and New York we also hosted a seminar lead by GAIA Wines Yiannis Paraskevopoulos. (You can download the presentation here).  In all three cities, the presentations were very well attended, which further solidifies the interest in Greece and the wines it produces.
Yiannis Paraskevopoulos leading the seminar in Chicago, March 12th

Overall, more than 350 people attended our events.  The majority were trade (buyers) of non ethnic accounts.  Interestingly, very few Greeks attended.  To me this means our portfolio is has truly crossed over to the mainstream market.  Unfortunately, in many instances, certain ethnic customers prefer to focus on the less expensive, lesser quality products.  Many believe that the majority of our portfolio is too expensive. It is quite amusing to me to hear this reasoning since there are many others working with wines from all over the world that believe the portfolio over delivers with regards to price & quality.

The events were organized by Athenee Importers. Teuwen One Image was essential to getting everything ready for the show.  Without that team of ladies, we would never had pulled off another successful year.  I thank Stephanie and her team from the bottom of my heart.  

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the participating wineries.  Without your support and belief in Athenee we would not be where we are.  We value all of you and appreciate your efforts in coming to the US and traveling across the country with us to spread the good word of Greek wines.
It was a tough schedule but we managed to have no snowstorms or bad weather delay the progress of the group.  By the time we made it to NY, we were enjoying 70 degree sunny weather.  A perfect end to a great week.

Until Next year!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Greek Spring Break at Tria Fermentation School

Thursday, March 15th 2012 Tria Fermentation School hosted a Greek Spring Break class for its students.  I led the class and had two guest speakers - Petros Markantonatos from Gentilini Wines & Apostolos Thymiopoulos from Thymiopoulos Vineyards.

The class was great fun - we were able to expose over two dozen attendees to Greek wines.  Many had never tasted anything Greek before, while others were exposed to some of the lesser quality stuff that unfortunately permeates the market.

Our lineup was:
Gentilini Aspro 2010 - welcome wine
Gentilini Robola 2010
Hatzimichalis Lefkos 2010
Assyrtiko Argyros 2010
Spiropoulos Red Stag 2009
Porto Carras Limnio 2010
Thymiopoulos Young Vines 2010
Thymiopoulos Uranos 2008
Samos Vin Doux 2010

Tria prepared a small plate for each attendee with an assortment of cheese, olives, picked veggies, almonds, salami & THE most amazing piece of fudge for dessert.

At the last minute, Michael McCaulley decided we should spring a retsina on the group as a surprise.  We used GAIA Ritinitis Retsina for this exercise.  In order for them to get a better understanding for retsina, I had each person eat an olive and then take a sip of the wine.  While several guests weren't fans, they could appreciate the wine for what it's worth.

In the beginning everyone was a bit quiet - I feel that they were listening and trying to get their feet under them as we explored Greece's wine regions and grapes.  However, as the evening wore on, the group became more animated and began chatting amongst themselves.  I always take that as a sign that the "lightbulbs" are going off in their minds.  Additionally, several attendees were asking about pricing on the wines.  once we gave them approximate retail prices, they could not believe that everything we tried was under $25 in Pennsylvania!

Educational events are always fun to be involved in.  What always inspires me to keep doing them is to watch people's reactions as they get more comfortable with the regions, grapes & wines.  I would like to take this opportunity to thank the crew at Tria for their constant support and for putting together great classes.  If you are ever in Philadelphia and have the ability to take a class, I highly recommend you do so.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Guest Post: Harvest Report 2011 from Estate Argyros on Santorini

Below is a guest post written by Estate Argyros on the 2011 vintage, which in their opinion rivals 2006.  To date I have tried the Atlantis White 2011 and am amazed by the aromas - something that was not as evident in the 2010. 

2011 Harvest report - Estate Argyros, Santorini
Vintage 2011 is considered as one of the best ever and is similar to the historical 2006.

The pruning started in November 2010 and it was completed in two periods, November and March

During the winter we had significant amount of rainfall and unusually low temperatures.
The beneficial winter rainfalls lasted from November to April and along with the low temperatures gave to the vine good boost and rest.

In spring time, mild conditions were favorable for flowering.
The bud break started around the 15th of April.
The climate enabled the grapes to ripen slowly to full maturity, giving the wine great finesse of aroma, crispness and structure. 

Summer was consistently cool.
Veraison was completed in late June.
The north breeze in July and August has moved development along nicely.

The harvest started on the 10th of August and ended the first week of September.
Αlthough, some parcels that were even two weeks behind were harvested in late September.
Probably, this was one of the latest harvests on record.
The crop was near the average.

The exceptional weather conditions of 2011 resulted wines with lovely freshness, intensity and concentration

Thursday, March 1, 2012

GAIA Wines Assyrtiko Wild Ferment - An interesting discussion

Recently I submitted GAIA Wines Assyrtiko Wild Ferment 2011 for review.  The reviewer sent an e-mail asking about the oak treatment on the wine which then morphed into a discussion on the complexity of the wine.  Below you will find the question & answer. A fascinating read which only leads to the intrigue of this wine.

Perhaps you might comment…I have always found the taste on the Wild Ferment to be a bit different. I call it a “mushroom-y” nuance, a sort of darker tone. Assuming you agree, what do you most attribute that to? The yeast? The wood combination? All things together?

Also what is it you feel you get from the Acacia instead of, say, French oak?

One question raises - in most cases - a second one ! By saying "a bit different" I presume that you mean different from other Santorini wines. Well this is a wine that at the end of the day combine many different elements that lead to what I would describe as "complexity" and - obviously - difference from other wines that don't do so.
Please let me clarify.

Element of complexity 1.
Vineyards. In order to minimize risk of undesired strains we use a rather big number of vine plots/areas (consider that practically every 1.000 lit. of must originate from a different plot. For the 2011 vintage we have used Assyrtiko from 12 well separated vineyards).

Element of complexity 2.
Fermenting conditions. Half (50%) of the must is fermented in INOX vats at relatively low temperatures (16-18ºC) where the yeast strains work slowly creating esters, secondary / fermentation aromas. The remaining 50% ferments in mainly new (80%) barriques at significantly higher temperatures, reaching even picks of 26-28ºC. At these temperatures yeast work in a totally different pathways that help the expression of the primary /  varietal aromas. 

Element of complexity 3.
Choice of wood. As mentioned only 50% of must ferments in barriques. 
The brake down is :
20% of 300 lit. French Oak (Nevers), 
20% of 225 lit. American Oak,
10% of 225 lit. Acacia.
I like Acacia in Assyrtiko. I have tasted also on Agiorgitiko and it was a real disaster. But when used to Assyrtiko it provides depth to the wine and a distinct "flower-y" dimension, faraway from the "woodenness" of oak. 
The drill in the use of bigger barriques, American oak, acacia and used barriques (some 20%) is to provide to the wine a solid base for evolution without overpowering it with wood / oak. Obviously so many different types of wood add-up to complexity.

Element of complexity 4.
Wild Yeast. In reality we should be discussing "wild microflora" and not just wild yeast. IN the sulfur-rich Santorini soil it seems that microorganisms are well adopted and the SO2 added by the wine maker has less impact when it comes to yeast or even bacteria inhibition. In a study conducted some 15 years ago by a French faculty and myself on a spontaneously fermenting Santorini Assyrtiko must, we counted some 18 different yeast strains coexisting from beginning to the end of fermentation at equivalent populations without a Saccharomyces cerevisiae domination and in addition some lactic bacteria were even present and actively working (probably it's here that you may search the origins of your "mushroom-y" tone. Can't tell you really. I'm not so sure I can spot it. Is it truffles that you mean ?)
In a sense we do in a natural (and non controlled way) what the yeast industry is trying to initiate now days by proposing mixed strain or sequential inoculations, having realized that just one stain leads to rather boring results !

Hope that some answers have been given.