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Sterea Ellada - Greek Wine Cellars
 

History

The Kourtakis family’s wine-making tradition dates back to 1895.  It was then that the company was founded by Vassili Kourtakis (1865-1946).  He had the rare distinction of being the first person in modern Greece to obtain a diploma in oenology.  He established his wine-making activities at Markopoulo, some 30 kilometres to the east of Athens, in the heart of what was then one of the  main wine-growing regions of Greece - the Mesogia.  Since then it has developed into one of the largest wine-producing companies in Greece.  The company’s subsequent progress has mirrored the changes that have taken place in Greek wine-making.  Its wines were first commercialized in bulk and distributed in casks throughout the local province of Attica, in Athens, and the nearby islands.  It was left to Dimitris Kourtakis (1908-2005), the son of the founder, to begin the marketing of the company’s wines in bottles and to extend their distribution throughout all of Greece.

Aegean Islands Red
Vin De Crete Red
Vin De Crete White
Apelia Red
Kouros Nemea Red
Mavrodaphne Of Patras

Aegean Islands White
Vin De Crete Rose
Apelia White
Kouros Patras White
Samos White
Retsina Of Attica


Today, more than a century after its founding, the company is still wholly owned and managed by the Kourtakis family.  The third generation is represented by the grandson of the founder, another Vassili Kourtakis.  In the last 25 years, under his direction, the company has become the largest wine-producing and bottling operation in Greece, with wineries not only in Attica but also in central Greece, the Peloponnese, and the island of Crete.  Its developing and diversified wine interests resulted in a name change some ten years ago to Greek Wine Cellars.  This acts as the umbrella for three divisions:  Kourtaki, Calliga and Oenoforos (the latter is dealt with as a separate wine-making entity - see under Oenoforos).  Currently, its annual production is some 40 million bottles with 50% of this volume being exported.

This achievement has been the result of a combination of determined effort and constant devotion on the part of the Kourtakis family.  It has always been among the first to implement new methods and invest in the latest technology, the guiding aim being to produce ever better wines. The company’s largest winery at Ritsona is a perfect example - see below.

In the early 1990s the company changed its name from D. Kourtakis S.A. to Greek Wine Cellars D. Kourtakis S.A. to more closely reflect its increasingly diverse interests in Greek wine-making:

  1. in 1991 it had begun a distribution arrangement with John Calligas of the Calliga winery for the Calliga portfolio of wines in the domestic market.  This initial arrangement has developed into full ownership of the Calliga brand and now the company produces a full selection of wines under the Calliga name, the latest being a range of varietals.
  2. In July 2004 it took a half share in the company of Oenoforos S.A., a highly respected ‘boutique’ winery founded by a noted Greek winemaker, Angelos Rouvalis.  It is located on the north-facing slopes of the Peloponnesian mountains overlooking the town of Aigion and the Gulf of Corinth beyond.  A range of varietal wines under the ‘Mikros Vorias’ label has been developed - both indigenous and international - and a barrel-aged range has been recently introduced under the ‘Ianos’ label. (see www.oenoforos.com)

As regards the marketing of the wines in export markets the company’s efforts are separated into 3 divisions:

  1. the wines of the Kourtaki division are directed to the large retailers serving the mainstream market
  2. the Calliga wines are largely distributed to outlets serving the ethnic market
  3. the Oenoforos wines are directed to the more specialist outlets

 

Vineyards
Apart from its Oenoforos division, the company does not own vineyards.  Instead, it co-operates with growers, usually on a long-term contractual basis, and crushes grapes at its several wineries.  In this way it is able to exert control in the vineyard and to produce an extensive range of wines originating from various regions of Greece.

The Winemaking Team
Vassili Kourtakis
He trained as an oenologist at Dijon and then worked for seven years as a winemaker in Burgundy before returning to Greece.  It is under his tenure that the company has invested in new wineries, expanding its range of wines beyond Attica to include those of other regions, and has aggressively developed export markets.

He has always been concerned that Greek wine producers play a part in the international wine-making scene.  To this end he is a past-President both of the European Wine Committee based in Brussels and the Greek Wine Federation, and is an active member of several international associations concerned with wine-making.

Vassili Pyrovolakis
He comes from Crete and learnt his wine-making skills in Greece.  He oversees a team of four oenologists.

Ritsona Winery
This is the company’s largest winery.  It was completed in the 1990s and is situated some 75 klms north of Athens.  Its central location permits it not only to make wines of the immediate region but also to process wines made at the company’s other wineries in the Peloponnese and the islands.  It is pivotal to the company’s operation. With its state-of-the-art technology it employs some of the latest techniques in the making of wines - for the gently pressing of the grapes and for the stabilization of the wines.  For example, the ‘Crystal Flow’ method patented by the Alfa-Laval company is used to stabilize the wines.  The Ritsona winery was the first in Greece to install this system.    It has been dubbed ‘the steel cathedral’ by visitors for its rows of temperature controlled stainless steel tanks arranged in a cruciform pattern.

 


Greek Wine Cellars

Winery
GREEK WINE CELLARS, D. KOURTAKIS S.A.
20 Anapafseos Avenue,
190 03 Markopoulo,
Attica GREECE
Tel. +30 22990 22231/6, 23284/6
Fax: +30 22990 23301
e-mail: kourt@otenet.gr

For export inquiries contact: Graham L. Blake

Other Wineries in Sterea Ellada
Boutari - Matsa Estate
Domaine Evharis
Katogi - Strofilia SA
Semeli Wines

Other Winemaking Regions
Macedonia
Epirus
Thessalia
Peloponnese
Aegean Islands
Ionian Islands

 

 

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