Katakolon Mercouri Winery
The Mercouri (or Merkouri) estate is one of the Greek wine industry's charming pleasures. Its owners and employees are intelligent, sunny and relaxed. The estate itself, a working farm that has been family-owned for nearly 150 years, is breathtakingly beautiful; tastefully preserved and stunningly landscaped. Good taste is so pervasive at Mercouri that we were not the least surprised about the originality and universally high quality of their wines.
Located in the western Peloponessos near Pyrgos, Mercouri occupies a plateau on the Ichthis peninsula close by the village of Korakohori. In addition to vineyards and olive groves, the estate has an Italianate residence, stone buildings that house the winery, offices and visitor center, and lush gardens inhabited by a variety of flora and fauna. A peacock scurried past just as we parked our car, an auspicious and lasting first impression. Another building houses a collection of antique implements and artifacts, a window into the estates largely self-sufficient past. Amid the lush gardens is a beautiful, ivy-covered stone chapel. Amphorae still littering the small bay behind the house attest to a tradition of wine commerce in the region during ancient times. Concerts and other events make use of the estate's beautiful grounds and buildings making it a popular cultural destination. In a region whose tourism is dominated by the nearby excavations of the ancient Olympiad, it is the most visible wine port of call.
The estate was founded by Theodore Mercouri, a wealthy cotton merchant from Alexandria, Egypt, in 1860. While olive oil and wine grapes dominate the estate's present 23 acres, currants, a historical mainstay of Peloponesian agriculture, have also played an important role in the farm's production. In 1870 Mercouri planted Refosco cuttings from Italy. Soon thereafter, wine headed for Trieste began leaving from a stone quay at the end of the peninsula for distribution in Europe. In time Refosco came to be referred to in the region simply as "Mercouri".
Leonidas Mercouri, son of the founder, established the first modern winery there in the 1930s. The operation continued until 1955. The present owners, Vasilis and Christos Kanellakopoulos, the fourth generation of the family, began a serious effort to revive winemaking on the estate in 1989.
Plantings are dominated by Refosco and Mavrodafni, the ingredients of the flagship wine called "Domaine Mercouri." Mercouri's flagship white, Foloi, is produced from Roditis grapes grown at 450-650 meter elevation on nearby Mount Foloi. Extensive experimental plantings in the estate's vineyards include the red varieties; Avgoustiatis, Mourvedre, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet, Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese and Grenache and the white varieties; Malvasia Aromatica, Ribolla Gialla, Sauvignon Blanc, Tourkopoula and Viognier. Some of these varieties have already found their way into a new line of wines. According to Vassilis Kanellakopoulos, "all our new wines are blends, partly because quantities are too low to vinify them alone. When Grenache and Sangiovese were not working out as solo varietals, we quickly discovered better uses for them."