|The House of Kourtakis is a family wine-making business that dates back to 1895. It was founded by Vassilis Kourtakis (1865-1946), who was the first person in Greece to obtain a diploma in oenology. He established his wine-making activity at Markopoulo, thirty kilometers to the northeast of Athens in the heart of one of the most celebrated wine growing regions of Greece - Attica. Today, Markopoulo remains the headquarters of Greek Wine Cellars, D. Kourtakis SA.
It was Dimitri ”Mimis” Kourtakis (1908-2005), son of the founder, Vassilis, who catapulted the Kourtakis Winery into the modern age. Mimis was a renowned oenologist, marketing genius, and statesman. He was the heart and soul of modern, Greek winemaking during its formative years.
For the first fifty years of its existence, the Kourtakis winery was famous for its bulk wine products distributed in casks throughout Attica and the nearby Greek Islands. Mimis was among the first in Greece to earn an oenology degree from Dijon University in France. His genius, however, went beyond wine production, glass bottles and steel tanks. He created new packaging for Kourtaki Retsina with its bright yellow label that still stands the test of time. By the early 1970’s, he was selling 50 million bottles of Kourtaki Retsina, out-producing the next three wineries combined, making Kourtaki a household name in Greece and one of the leading brands in the world.
Mimis was a visionary. In the mid-seventies when Greece emerged from the grip of the Colonels as a modern democracy, Mimis widened his horizons, taking aim at the greater European market. He invested his profits from the huge success of Retsina, and built ”the steel cathedral” in Ritsona located about 75 kilometers north of Athens. It is still regarded as one of the top wineries in Europe.
Always among the first in Greece to implement new methods and invest in new technology, the Ritsona winery, completed in 1991, is an excellent example. The latest techniques are used to gently press the grapes. Using only the must from the first pressing, the must is fermented slowly at very low temperatures to ensure that the distinctive characteristics of the grape varietal are maintained. The ”Crystal Flow” method patented by Alpha Laval is used to stabilize the wines.
For the past quarter-century, Mimis’ son, Vassilis Kourtakis, has been Managing Director of the winery, and has followed in his father’s footsteps. Armed with an oenology degree from Dijon, and a marketing genius of his own, Vassilis worked side by side with his father to create a line of award-winning value priced wines, crafted for the international market, and today, the top selling brand of Greek wines in the USA. Under the leadership of Vassilis Kourtakis, the Kourtakis Winery has become the largest wine producer in Greece.
About ten years ago, Vassilis changed the name of the company to Greek Wine Cellars D. Kourtakis SA, and created three divisions to produce and market the Kourtaki brands, including Apelia and Kouros, as well as Calliga, and Oenoforos. Oenoforos remains a separate winery and is owned 50-50 with Angelos Rouvalis.
Today, Greek Wine Cellars operates wineries in Markopoulo (Attica), Ritsona, the Peloponnesos (Southern Greece) and on the island of Crete. Other than Oenoforos, which owns its vineyards, Greek Wine Cellars has long-standing contracts with an array of growers, and works closely with them to assure quality.
No wonder the accolades keep coming for the wines. The Kourtakis winery has been named a Value Brand many times by Wine & Spirits magazine and along with Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast has rated the wines as Best Buys and offering outstanding Values.