Marianna Kosmetatos-Markantonatos, Gentilini Winery and Vineyards
This family's winery and vineyard are seeped in tradition dating back to the 1500's. Decedents of Marino Gentilini, an Italian engineer, sent to Kefalonia by the Venetian Senate to oversee the building of the forts, this family released its first commercial products in 1984. The torch has been now passed on to Marianna and her husband Petros. Here is their story!
How did you get started in the wine business? Was there a certain moment where you knew wine was going to be a big part of your life?
The winery was founded by my father, Spiro Kosmetatos and I grew up in the vineyards and winery. However, it was not until I met my husband, Petros Markantonatos, in 1997 that I fully immersed myself in the business.
Tell us the story of the earliest stages of creating a wine business? What were the challenges and how did you overcame them?
Establishing a wine business in Greece has always been a challenge, particularly in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s: There were no nurseries, so we had to create our own in order to graft onto American rootstock; everything had to be imported, from yeast to machinery to bottles; and let’s not get started on the Greek bureaucracy!
What has surprised you about being a winemaker?
Not so much surprised me as what I love about being a winemaker: That we work as a team at the winery to create a sublime product that touches all the senses and connects you to others across the table and around the world.
In the world of wine, who do you most admire and why? Who influenced you?
Antonori because of his vision and courage to break the rules and create Tignanello, a wine that he believed would be superior. From inception Gentilini has had this vision – to experiment and create superior quality wines that do not necessarily conform to archaic PDO laws. For example, one year we decided to downgrade our Robola from PDO in order to bottle it with Stelvin.
Do you think that Greek wines deserve more attention globally? Why?
Absolutely I believe that Greek wines deserve more attention. Greece is a country that has a plethora of indigenous varieties that result in unique wines not found anywhere else on earth. In the last 30 years hugely talented winemakers here have taken these varieties and created some truly superb wines with depth, complexity and, above all, character.
What is unique about Greek Grapes and Greek Wines?
Certainly the grape varieties in the different regions of Greece. Many do not realize that Greece is very mountainous and that the soil and climate differ dramatically from Crete to Naoussa and from Kefalonia to Rhodes. The varieties grown in each region are those that have traditionally fared well in the local conditions, thus resulting in wines that are true to their character and terroir.
How do you think people perceive Greek wines around the world?
Unfortunately, the damage done by bad retsina and even worse jug (house) wines served to the tourists is unfathomable. We find ourselves constantly having to re-educate those visiting Greece and our winery, as do all serious winemakers in Greece. However, anyone who tastes quality bottled Greek wine is instantly converted and becomes a fan.
How has wine production in Greece evolved over the last decades?
It has truly evolved dramatically in both quality and quantity, with new and exciting wineries opening constantly. In addition, the next generation is now becoming involved in some wineries, bringing with them fresh ideas and energy.
What have been some of the major technological advancements in winemaking in Greece?
Winemakers are now more educated in their craft and use modern technology to refine their wines while exploring the potential of the local varieties. They keep up to date with what is going on around the world, and experiment with new systems both in the vineyard and in the winery.
What do you think need to happen in order for Greek wines to gain international recognition and gain the same status of Italian or France wines?
Education and promotion. These are not supermarket wines and need to be hand sold. Some good work has been done by New Wines of Greece who manage the promotional activities in North America but, unfortunately Greek wines do not enjoy the backing and support of their government that other countries’ wineries do, preventing us from using our share of EU funds.
What are the benefits or challenges of producing wine in 2019 in Greece?
The benefits are the great climate, the indigenous varieties and the terroir. The challenges are the costs, the taxes, the transport and the bureaucracy.
Which varietals are grown at the winery?
We grow Mavrodaphne, Muscat, Syrah and Moschofilero. We also have agreements with growers and buy in Robola, Sauvignon Blanc, Tsaoussi, and Agiorgitiko
What is one of your favorite varietals to work with and why?
It would have to be Robola. This is the main indigenous white grape variety of Kefalonia. Although it is delicate and difficult to grow, it produces terroir driven wines of great character, complexity and balanced acidity. We have been experimenting recently with native yeasts, oak fermentation and aging on its lees. The results have been outstanding.
What goals in winemaking are you still working to achieve?
We are considering making a sparkling Robola. We are also working hard with our other main indigenous variety, Mavrodaphne. Work is done in the vineyards with the same pruning methods that are applied to Grange vineyards in Barossa, and in the winery with different barrels (fermentation in open barrels), different yeasts and different extraction methods (we currently use both pisage and delastage methods).
What do you find to be the hardest part of harvest?
Making sure we get the quantity of grapes we need at the quality we require and then making sure that they are harvested at optimal levels of ripeness.
What is one of the hardest things about winemaking year in and year out?
To maintain and surpass our level of quality for all the wines.
What have been the best vintages?
We have been making wine since 1984 but, for the purposes of brevity I refer to the outstanding vintages since 2010.
Robola: 2010, 2011, 2013, 2017
Eclipse (Mavrodaphne): 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017
What is the winery's volume of production?
About 100,000 liters or 120,000 bottles total
Which wines are aged in barrels? How long are the wines aged before being bottled?
Robola Wild Paths: Fermented and aged for 3 months before being blended into stainless steel.
Notes Red: 6 months in oak, 6 months in vat
Eclipse / Syrah: 12 months in oak, 1 month in tank
What is one of the most rewarding things about your job?
I have the opportunity to create high quality, artisanal products that bring people together in an enjoyable way. Every day and every year is different and exciting and I get to meet interesting people from all over the world.
What is your winemaking philosophy?
To make small quantities of top quality, exciting and unique wines by exploring the full potential of the local varieties. To bring to people Kefalonia in a glass.
How do you KNOW when you have a particularly good vintage?
The weather plays a big role in whether a vintage will be a particularly good one. We can tell how it looks by following the ripening season and adjusting our viticulture techniques accordingly, but we know for sure once all the grapes are safely harvested and in the winery.
Any wine making tips for those just getting into winemaking or those interested in studying wine?
Just like anything creative, winemaking must be a passion. It requires dedication, hard work and being constantly up to date. Hands-on experience is also needed.
What is one thing you have been most proud of in your work?
I find it very gratifying to see how well received our wines are, especially in other countries and by all sorts of people, from experts in the wine business to consumers enjoying a meal.