MARKOU WINES | Paiania, Attiki - March 29th, 2015
posted on 21/04/2015

Athens and Vienna are the only european capitals having vineyards within their city boundaries!

 

That cloudy Sunday morning driving our way to the winery of Markou Vineyards we were totally unsuspicious... We thought we would only meet a family merely dealing with wine. Eventually we discovered that Markou family -with a history of 150 years in winemaking- is also intensively involved in modern and traditional dining and restaurants, educational visits, events and so much more! Today, the youngest generation of the family, five loved cousins, run five different companies. Business Acumen, as everyone runs the Company he/she has undertaken or founded! However, what is even more interesting is that each family member helps all the others and that all businesses complement each other and operate collaboratively. It is no exaggeration to say that Markou family has managed to create a miniature of the perfect society!

 

 

The winery of Markou Vineyards in Paiania...

 

...in a very short distance from Athens!

 

The family winery is located at the beginning of Markopoulou Avenue, shortly after Intracom in Paiania. Today’s Paiania retains only little from the old charm of Mesogeia. However, the nicely decorated and functional building creates a feeling of intimacy which -combined with the excellent wines crafted with knowledge and passion by exceptional people- create many reasons for every wine lover to visit their winery. Upon our arrival we met two young professionals, Vassilis (28 years old) and Nikos Markou (25 years old). Their professionalism and disposition is totally disproportionate to their age and this is probably explained by their chronic involvement in the family businesses, since they were little.

 

Brothers Vassilis (left) and Nikos Markou


We sat on a large wooden table and under the sounds of their canaries, the two brothers unfolded the family history. It all started from their great-grandfather, Spyros Markou in the late 19th century. He planted their first vines in the area which then had a long tradition in wine and retsina. Some years later, during the 1920s, by utilizing an owned property he launched a tavern at the center of Athens called "Spataneiki Mantra”, through which he channeled his wine.


Each generation thereafter was building on the foundations the great grandfather Spyros first established. His son Vassilis Markou (the boys’ grandfather) extended the business to wine trade as their wine had built a good reputation and many tavern owners of Athens were seeking for it. The success was such that he had to increase the annual production and market it more widely. His sons Spyros and Kostas Markou built the current winery in Paiania in 1983 and expanded their vineyards in Mesogeia Attica and Nemea of Peloponnese, which supplied dark grapes to produce red wine.

 

 

Getting to know better the 150 years history of the family!

 

Getting ready for the tasting

 

And we finally end up to the fourth generation: Spyros’ Markou sons are Vassilis and Nikos –whom we just met. They have undertook the winery and wine production. Their three cousins Maria, Vassilis and Dimitris, children of Kostas Markou, have undertaken to continue the culinary legacy of Markou family: Maria runs "Oenopoleion" tavern at Psyrri, the evolution of their great-grandfather tavern, Vassilis owns and runs Bisteca steak-house at Melissia, while Dimitris runs “It me”, a Company of daily production and distribution of fresh sandwiches!


Below you can see all Companies of “Markou Vineyards Group”:

 

Markou Vinayeards, Wine Museum, Cave Cuisine, It Me, Oenopolion and Bisteca... it's all about wine and dine!

 

 

At the tank room of the winery

 

Seven meters under ground the winemaking and ageing conditions are ideal!

 

 

At the barrel cellar...

 

...where Agiorgitiko, Merlot, other reds and white Savatiano mature


After a short tour at the reception hall and winery cellar with tanks and barrels seven meters underground, we returned to the tasting table where Markou brothers opened thirteen wines! The excellent wine selection of Markou Vineyards we tasted consisted exclusively of varietal wines (no blends) of the following varieties: whites Savatiano (the 'star' of Attica and the Mesogaia), Malagouzia and Trebbiano and reds Merlot and Agiorgitiko. Nikos Markou proved to be an extremely talented young winemaker who tasted with us answering all our questions that had to do with winemaking.

 

L-R: Savatiano 2014 and 2013, Malagouzia 2014, Trebbiano 2013, Savatiano barrel 2013, Schinopefko Retsina 2014 and Savatiano Kleftes 2010. These are only for start

 

Let me share my tasting notes with you:

 

  • Savatiano 2014 - Totally typical Savatiano from 50 year old bush vines mainly from Spata. Elegant nose with tropical (banana, melon) and stone fruits (peach). Full palate, exuberant, although alcohol is properly restrained to 12,5%.

  • Savatiano 2013 - The same wine a year older is much more elegant! Tropical aromas have subsided, with the stone fruit (peach, nectarine) now dominating and with an extra mineral dimension. The angles of youth in the nose have smoothened, while the mouth is much rounder, fine and with a longer finish.

  • Malagouzia 2014 - The fruit comes from seven-year-old vines from the area of Leontio Corinthia (Nemea). Lime, floral aromas, some vegetality and stone fruit notes compose a flavor profile with less depth than the previous wines –I reckon vine age plays a key role. Mouth is more expressive, crisp, with medium (+) acidity. An easier and certainly less complex wine.

  • Trebbiano 'Wine Expressions' 2013 - Trebbiano is the Italian name of what the French call Ugni Blanc, a variety that produces the base wine for the distillation of the famous Cognac in France. It is a structural, relatively neutral variety which functions as a vehicle to highlight more clearly the terroir of the area it is planted. Grapes this time are sourced from the slopes of Kithaironas Mountain and result in a very elegant wine to be paired with food. I would describe it as a 'fish wine' as it goes perfectly with fish. Minimal fruit (few citrus notes) and some mineral elements in the nose. While it has very discreet nose, the mouth is much more exuberant with high acidity that will perfectly refresh our -tired from the fish oiliness- palates!

  • Trebbiano 'Wine Expressions' 2008 - The boys seeing that I liked the Trebbiano 2013 a lot were so kind to open the same wine from the harvest of 2008. Complex nose with ecclesiastical aromas (incense, charcoal), honey, mushroom, wet earth. On the palate it is lively despite its six and a half years! Round palate with the acidity and alcohol fully integrated. Ideally paired with blue cheese and other French stinky cheeses!

  • Savatiano barrel 2013 - Having tried several Savatiano wines fermented in oak barrels, I had high expectations... and was not disappointed! The whole quantity was fermented in oak barrels (50% new, 50% one and two years old) with another five months maturation. The result is a wine with complex nose aromas of peach, nectarine, nuts and vanilla. Very intense and with incredible concentration on the palate (justified by the 50 years-old vines and barrel fermentation), exuberance and long finish. A real dynamite!

  • Schinopefko Retsina 2014 (Savatiano 100%) - A new generation retsina made by the great-grandchildren of Spyros Markou! Mastiha, green apple, lime, pine resin. On the palate the varietal character of Savatiano was most intense with the known banana aromas. I would like the aroma of resin to be bolder; this wine hardly is a retsina. For the uninitiated in this historic wine style however, it is a painless and easy introductory choice.

  • Kleftes 2010 (100% Savatiano) – A wine bottled without the addition of sulfite. As I have tried quite many faulty wines without sulfites in the past, I was a bit negatively biased before I tried it. But I eventually liked it! Much developed nose of course, but with a very interesting aroma profile: pear, mushroom, truffle, earth, dry nuts and a flavor reminiscent of sherry with additional mouth aromas of chestnut, almond and Portobello mushrooms!

  • Markou Selections Fume 1998 (100% Savatiano) - An epic 17 years old Savatiano that captivated our palates! Made by uncle Kostas Markou with fruit from arid old vines from Mesogeia; vinified in oak barrels with bâtonnage has built the ideal ageing foundation that approaches two decades with 0% oxidation! Aromas of ham (luncheon meat), tobacco and mushroom and an incredibly noble and balanced palate. It is still crisp and alive, thanks to its acidity, at the same time perfectly oily and creamy. This wine is the forefather of today’s 'Savatiano barrel'. When this wine was made Nikos was little (primary school), but –after researching and asking- he told us that the wine has spent more time in the barrel from the current version in even more toasted barrels.

  • Agiorgitiko 2013 - And now the reds! A sample right from a barrel, with grapes sourced from Leontio Nemea. This wine bears all typical characteristics of the charming variety of Peloponnese: red fruit, cherries, sour cherry, sweet spices and generally sweeter aromas.

  • Merlot 'Wine Expressions' 2013 - before I tasted this, I hoped it wasn’t another cheesy, flabby Merlot one can find in the market today. Fortunately, Markou family makes a sturdier Merlot with a much more intense personality: The typical aromas of the variety (red fruits, plums, black cherries) dominate the nose with a fleshy palate and yet intense tannins. Five days skin contact, 14-15 days in the fermenter, pressing, MLF and second settling in the tank (for 6 months) before being matured in oak barrels for 10 months. A wine that is still evolving. The grapes are cultivated at the slopes of Kitheronas.

  • Merlot 'Wine Expressions' 2008 - Complex nose with dried red fruits, earthy aromas, tobacco, spices and a charming miniscule hint of farm. A big spectrum of aromas and a charming character!
 

Savatiano proved once more its great attributes 

 

Nikos and Vassilis sharing their wine creations!

 

Sampling Trebbiano 2008


The young (right) is lovely, but the old is exceptional!

 

We enjoyed the tasting as well as Markou brothers' great company!

 

  • Merlot 'Wine Expressions' 2005 (Magnum bottle 1,5 lt) – Nose aromas of ink, dense black fruit, plums, leather, tobacco, spices. Supple and fleshy on the palate. Feels younger than the 2008! 2005 was a great year, this is why they bottled magnums.

 

Markou family does a really superb job. The attention they give to quality shows their dedication and respect for both the product itself as well as the historic region which they represent.

 

 

On our way to the Wine Museum in Pallini, we passed by many old, bush-trained and dry-farmed Savvatiano vineyards

 

Just pruned vines, with last years' canes gathered in piles

 

MUSEUM OF WINE


We said farewell to Nikos and left together with his brother Vassilis to their Wine Museum in Pallini. This is a venue hosting events and exhibitions of art and culture. In the basement is the Wine Museum with old wooden crushers and tools, old pumps, barrel-making tools and many photos that travel visitors in time.


Many school educational trips are hosted here as well, with children being taught about wine and olive oil. They actually have the chance to harvest grapes from neighboring vineyards and press them in a traditional basket press in autumn, so as to feel the grandeur of nature and tradition. Here are some photos from the Wine Museum:

 

 

Old wooden grape crusher at Markou family's Wine Museum...

 

...together with many other old viticulture and winemaking tools!

 

 

A sea of vines in Mesogeia, Attika 57 years ago...

 

Attika apart from vines, olive trees, ancient ruins and mountains also has sea, so that we can wash our baskets after the harvest!

 


WINE OF ATHENS

 

I will conclude this post with a reference to the brand new "Wines of Athens" network; an excellent initiative which we owe to Eleni Kefalopoulou who was inspired and carried it out. It is a partnership of initially five wineries of Attica in order to spread the word about Savatiano and wine tourism in Attica to those from the hundreds of thousands of visitors in Athens who are interested in the culture of wine and taste. I absolutely welcome the initiative and wish the wineries involved from five to be fifteen (and many more later on) so that someday the good wine of Attica to be enjoyed and be the subject of debate among wine lovers around the world!

 

 

Savatiano bottlings from the wine wineries of 'Wines of Athens' network

 

Recent article / presentation of 'Wines of Athens' at 'Oinohoos' magazine

 

Vassilis and Nikos Markou, we are honored to have met you and wish you good luck; carry on your excellent work! I wish you continue to always offer us such beautiful wines!

 

Photos: Stavroula Mariamou

 

Gregory Kontos, DipWSET


Wine writer and taster, sommelier graduate and WSET Diploma holder, with an appreciation for food, traveling, music, friends and bon vivant things in general. Co-partner at Aegean Food Exports and founder of Aegean Wine Selections, a Company focused in Greek wine exports. He is married to Stavroula Mariamou and they have a son. 

 

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