Lykos Winery’s Athena Lykou

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Working with vineyards located in central and southern Evia, Boeotia, Thebes, and the famous Nemea area in the Peloponnese, the Lykos Winery continues a winemaking and culinary passion that follows 40 years of family history.  While respecting the environment and safeguarding it for future generations, Lykos Winery selected hillside terrains with excellent terroir and planted varieties such as Assyrtiko, Savatiano, Roditis, Athiri, Malagousia, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Grenache Rouge, Vradiano and Mavrokoudoura. The southern exposed vineyards and refreshing sea breezes provide ideal conditions for the growth of superior wine grapes in which create the award winning Lykos wines.

The Lykos family started producing traditional white and red wines with use of a stone winepress to complement the food served that was served in the family tavern.   From this simple beginning, a state of the art winery has grown using cutting edge technology to produce superior vintage wines.

Visitors are always welcome with open arms to the winery. Those visiting not only witness first hand the wonderful wines and the process that brings them to life, but also experience and understand the passion for wine making that Apostolos and Nana Lykos have. If one really wants to appreciate the full experience, a visit to their restaurant featuring traditional specialty meals that complement the wines is highly suggested.

We all at Hellenic Lifestyle admire Athena Lykou, not only for her food and wines, but also for the balancing act she does between work and family. We decided to talk more with this fascinating woman of wine…

Co-owner and Manager of Lykos Winery and Restaurant

Athena Christoforidou (Nana) Lykou. 

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HL (Hellenic Lifestyle): Tell us a little bit about how you got into the wine business. Was it a choice? How were you drawn in?

Nana (Athena ‘Nana’ Lykou): I started working at the Lykos family restaurant when I was young at the age of 17. This is when I fell in love with my husband, got married, and began to build our family of 3 children– Dimitris, Apostolos, and Giannis.

 In 1991, we began to build the winery. Initially, we produced 2 wines—Vinoponte and Kratistos. Back then we did everything by hand.  Imagine that! We would stick the labels onto the wine bottles one by one with our hands! Of course, now the winery is very modern and high-tech. Our bottling procedure now is much easier:)

Falling in love with Apostolos went hand in hand with  falling in love with the wine and food business. It is part of who we are. It wasn’t long until my husband and I decided to create the winery from what was once a small production of wine that the family made with traditional methods to serve the customers of the restaurant.

 HL: Tell us a little more about your winery.

Nana: Our winery is located just 80 km from Athens, across the wine-growing region of Lilantio Field in the Malakonda-Eretria area. We are third generation winemakers, who give respect to winemaking traditions while complimenting these traditions with the utilization of cutting edge technology. We continue to realize the vision of the family, which is to contribute to the continuous improvement of Evian vineyard.

We love visitors! Visiting the underground cellars with its’ oak barrels and the tasting room are a unique experience especially when combined with the delicious suggestions available at our restaurant.

We have great respect for the environment and nature’s creations. The vineyards, that we cooperate with, are spanning both sides of south central Evia, mountainous Boeotia and in the Koutsi area of Nemea.

The unique collaboration of sun, earth and human knowledge, creates an explosive effect, combining the ideal terroir aura of Evia with the uniqueness of the cold winter that favor the phenolic ripening of the grapes.

Lykos Winery

HL: What is your average day like?

Nana: I guess not much different from many other workingwomen. I wake up at 7am and prepare my youngest son for school. I look after the house and then from 9am until 6pm, I work at the winery and the restaurant. After a day at work, I run errands and fill appointments until around 8pm when I get to go home to rest. My weekends are busy too, especially at restaurant. I am lucky as my house is very close to the winery.

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HL: Busy! But, do you enjoy it? What is the most fulfilling part about it? 

Nana: I enjoy everything! Every part of my life is fulfilling since everything we have achieved was made with lots of effort. We are proud of what we do here. I enjoy the day-to-day duties not just because I enjoy wine and food, but I enjoy interaction with people. Each day I get to communicate with people on many levels. I strive to give all my strength to my colleagues and customers.

HL: What was one of your proudest moments?

Nana: Many personal moments, but if you ask professionally…I recall how proud I was (all of us) that we achieved our first award for our wine.

HL: What is your next big challenge? How about plans for the future?  

Nana: I really don’t have big plans. I want to take smaller and stable steps, living in the moment, and enjoying not only the outcomes but the journey as well. My hopes for the future are mostly about my family, our health and happiness. I’d like for my family to fulfill the goals we set personally and professionally achieving them from inner strength and then living comfortable within them.

HL: We admire your thoughts for the future, but what about the past? How about some Lykos winery history?

Nana:   All the rich experience of creation that has passed from grandparents to grandchildren with passion and love has resulted in our wines receiving numerous international awards. The history of Lykos family in the area of restaurant and wine production began from the middle of the last century. Dimitris Lykos, Apostolis father, at the age of 12 years old began working with the land doing various jobs as a laborer in the nearby region.

After the hard work, he managed to buy a part of the land (where we are currently). Initially he made a small convenience store in which he was serving various eclectic appetizers (which was something unusual at that time) and accompanied them with homemade wine of his own production with traditional methods using hands for collection of the grapes, and feet to press them in concrete tanks and wooden barrels.

In the beginning of 1980, the convenience store was converted into a tavern and  currently houses the restaurant. In 1991, we started the construction of the winery, with the final expansions to be completed in 2004. In the beginning, the winery produced two wines, the Vino Ponte white wine from the varieties of Rodotis-Asyrtiko-Savvatiano and the Kratistos red wine, Agiorgitiko Variety. Kratistos is being produced nowadays as well, and is a PDO NEMEA (Protected Designation of Origin Nemea).

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HL: Do you remember your first glass of wine? What about on a weekday evening, sitting comfortably at home, what can we expect to find in your glass and what are you pairing it with? Lastly, if you could share a glass of wine with any one—who would that person be and what would you drink?

Nana: My first glass of wine was the family’s wine, Panselinos Sauvignon Blanc. Today, you will still find me drinking our wines. Although I don’t get to have quiet moments as one would like …when I do, I am drinking Panselinos Rose with a simple plate of cheeses and chips.   I would very much enjoy sharing a glass of wine with my mother—we’d be drinking a Melikos sweet wine.

HL: What varietals are you working with and are you growing them all yourselves?

Nana: We have contracted vineyards, which are increasing in numbers all the time, offering us more varieties and opportunities to produce wines from different varieties. Our vineyards have an altitude of 200-550m on slopes for better drainage are located mainly in the areas of Evia-Viotia and Nemea. The varieties are Malagousia, Agiorgitiko, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Vradiano, and Assyrtiko.

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HL: Where are Lykos wines available? Where are they being marketed now and do you see any change in that?

Nana: Lykos Wineries’ wine selections are available in Greek market as well as in the international market, mainly in the countries of European Union. We export to England, Germany, Switzerland, Netherlands, Slovakia, Cyprus, America, Canada and China. Our aim is to expand to into other markets such as Russia while strengthening our presence in the existing markets. Our wines have been internationally recognized and have been awarded in domestic and international wine competitions (CWSA, Berliner Wien Trophy, Decanter) earning awards in all categories, with recent acquisition the gold medal for the Panseloinos Red 2012 at CWSA 2015 in the category Best Value that took place in Hong Kong.

The annual production reaches approximately 190.000 bottles per year. The production capacity is increasing and the winery has the ability to serve higher wine demand if it’s required to offer in the market local and international, due to its high technological equipment.

HL: What was the best year for your winery and why?

Nana: I should say it was 1999 when we started gaining international recognition and awards for our wines. It was when we entered into the market more dynamically, making expansions, higher sales numbers and more vineyards.

Kratistos

HL: Which of your wines would you recommend to someone purchasing them for the first time and what would be a recommended food pairing?

 Nana: Malagousia is a homogenous variety. The terroir is from Karistos, Evia and recently won double gold medal at CWSA wine contest in Hong Kong. It would be a good pairing with Sea Bass and green salad. The most impressive of our wines is Kratistos, a matured Agiorgitiko wine, would be most enjoyed with a nice beef steak. I do however believe that I would also have to recommend the entire collection of Kratistos (from each year) and our Panselinos (red, white and rose) series. Our Pop-Art is not just a delicious wine but the very attractive packaging is enjoyed by people with modern spirits.

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HL: What special qualities do you feel Greek wines offer the wine connoisseur? And what are Greece’s biggest assets in wine making?

Nana: Greece has the oldest and richest varieties and vineyards. Greeks loved wine so much that they had their own God Dionysos to whom they prayed for blessings of their wine production. The terroir is ideal because it combines both mountain and sea. It is this terroir along with quality production that are Greece’s biggest assets.

HL: How can we better expose the Greek wine market and educate the foreign buyer to our wines? What would you do to better market Greek wines overall?

Nana: Many Greek wines are equivalent (with some of them better) to those that are promoted as higher wines in the international market. For Greek wines to become more recognized,  we need to very actively market and create a plan, a ‘branding’. Greece needs to promote our unique and diverse terriors and our many varietals.  Concentrating  on new markets such as China and expansion within these newer markets would also show growth in the industry. Lastly, Greece also needs to educate people. We need to have  more wine bars, wine tastings, and shops. This will increase consumption and demand better quality.

HL: What are some of the biggest obstacles in exporting wine from Greece? Which are the most difficult of countries to break into and why?  

Nana: Canada and the Scandinavian countries work with monopolies that control the import of wine. In these countries they normally expect extremely low prices. Also, Russia has only 15 entry licenses of wine.

HL: Do you think that Greek wine will one day share the same fame that yogurt and olive have?

Nana:   Yes I do! It is a matter of time.

HL: What is happening in terms of varietals in Greece? Which is Greece’s best indigenous varietal?

Nana: All the Greek varieties are good.  For me, the ideal for growing are Malagousia, Agiorgitiko, Moscofilero, and Vradiano. There is a big push by many here in the industry to revive the ancient homogenous varieties.

HL: Your advice to someone wanting to enter the wine business?

Nana: You should have passion. You will need patience and optimism to remain in this business especially now with the current economic crisis as it is difficult for many businesses to survive.

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Nana is certainly passionate about food and wine and what they have created with hard work at Lykos Winery and Restaurant. With her dedication to the food & wine industry, she is a strong role model for women entering the profession. With a loving heart and kind nature, she is a role model for us all.

Thank you from Hellenic Lifestyle.

To learn more about Lykos visit them at www.lykoswines.com , Like them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/LykosWinery , or follow them on Twitter at https://twitter.com/LYKOSWINERY

1 Comment

  1. Karen

    March 22, 2015 at 4:32 am

    Let’s hear it for the ladies! Keep up the good work. I hope to see more Greek wine in my supermarket here in Orlando, Florida USA.

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