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Crewe wine merchant invests in Greek olive oil

15:06 13 February 2012

Rodney and Margie Densem and some of their Eleonas Estate Olive Oil

Rodney and Margie Densem and some of their Eleonas Estate Olive Oil

A Crewe-based wine merchant is investing in 'liquid gold' - made from the produce of the family's own olive groves in Greece WORDS BY RAY KING<br/>PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN COCKS

Leading wine merchant Rodney Densem Wines has won many accolades for its extensive and varied list since Rodney and his wife Margie set up the business in 1972 after selling their Cheshire country house hotel.

The firms many customers, be they in the hotel and restaurant trade, running pubs or private clients, have more than 1,000 different wines and spirits to choose from, produced in countries all around the world. Very few of them or visitors to RDWs Nantwich retail shop for that matter - ask for Greek wine.

They do, however, enthuse over Rodney Densems Greek olive oil. So does he for what Homer called liquid gold in ancient Greece, is very much a family affair. And the story of how Eleonas Extra Virgin Olive Oil ended up in Cheshire is a charming tale.

Rodney, now chairman of Rodney Densem Wines, said: My son Simon, now in his late 30s, was an international analyst for the investment bank UBS in Switzerland but one day decided to take some time out and search for a more satisfying lifestyle. Having toured all around Europe, he ended up in Greece and bought a piece of land in the hills just outside Kalamata in the southern Peloponnese, an area reputed to produce the best olive oil in Greece, which in turn is rated best in the world.

He managed to get permission for four houses on the land, built two and gave us one of them. So there we were with two houses in the hills amid 500 olive trees. So he decided to produce olive oil.

Olive oil has been more than mere food to the peoples of the Mediterranean for thousands of years: it has been medicinal, magical, an endless source of fascination and wonder and the fountain of great wealth and power. Indeed the importance of the olive industry in ancient economies cannot be overstated. The tree is extremely hardy and its useful lifespan can be measured in centuries. Its wide and deep root system ensures its survival without additional watering, even in the water-sparse Mediterranean.

Our trees werent in the best condition, but they have been pruned into the ideal wine goblet shape and over the past four or five years have yielded enough olives for Simon to produce 1,000 1,500 litres of high quality extra virgin olive oil a year, added Rodney, who is a frequent visitor to the estate, not far from the ancient Messini, established in 371BC after the rule of Sparta over the area was broken.

Its not really a commercial operation, said Rodney, but its traditional and immensely satisfying. A few local people come along to harvest the olives and there are many presses in the area.

The Densems Eleonas brand the name simply means olive grove - is a classic and well-structured oil, with a fresh grassy aroma, strong tannin, offering hints of pepper, spice and fruit flavours and a pungent clean finish. Produced from 100 per cent Koroneiki olives, regarded as the finest, it is quintessentially Greek in both flavour and character

The extra virgin quality rating depends on oil having low acidity. To qualify it must contain no more than 0.8 per cent acidity; Eleonas contains just 0.3 per cent. The high quality commands a premium price - 7.95 for 500ml but Eleonas has won high praise, not least being endorsed as exceptional by Patrick Gilbaud whose eponymous restaurant in Dublin has two Michelin stars. It is primarily used as a luxury dressing for salads, added at the table to soups and stews and for dipping.

The print version of this article appeared in the February 2012 issue of Cheshire Life

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