Winemaker’s Wife, “Winemaker’s Widow?”

August started and it seems the whole of Europe is on holidays. I receive pictures from all my friends on the beach, sightseeing and relaxing… From the moment I met Marcos, and we decided things would get ‘serious’, I knew that I would never be going for holidays anymore in August! Instead I would be either working hard or be at home waiting for him while he is busy with the harvest.

Over the years I got used to the idea that August to October are our peak months; grape sampling early in the morning, harvesting, sorting, fermenting, filling and emptying barrels, laboratory work, blending… The most crucial months of the year for a winery and therefore also the most intense and stressful for the winemaker. These are the months the wines need to be made and it is key to avoid mistakes and stay focused at all times.

Some years ago, Akis told me that during a harvest he and Marcos did in New Zealand, he heard of a club of women that called themselves the ‘Winemakers’ Widows’. Some strong Kiwi humour! They gathered up for drinks as winemakers’ spouses during harvest, because what to do when you hardly see your husband for 2 months? Right…you find women alike and you drink away your misery ?

The truth is that they can be tough months as Marcos gets up before dawn (and usually wakes me and Sebastian up without meaning to) and most evenings only comes back when Sebastian is deep asleep and I am trying to keep my eyes open for him. He comes home, either dusty from the vineyards or with a t-shirt full of juice stains, smelling of fermentations; but above all usually exhausted.

Did you know that during vintage the winemaker does rounds, 2x per day, just like a doctor sees his patients in the hospital? Instead of patients, the winemaker sees each of his tanks and ferments to measure their progress on fermentation, temperature, colour extraction and tannins. If you find out during your evening round that something is not going as planned you need to ‘fix’ it as soon as possible. I remember nights where Marcos worked all around the clock, because during the evening round it became clear they could not wait another 12 hours before pressing off a red wine from its skins, because it would get too tannic…

They are decisions that have to be made quickly, but well thought of and can have an irreversible impact on the final quality of the wine. During these months, there is only one focus and that is to make the best wine possible. Marcos lives in his own world and always jokes he only answers the phone to me, his mom and our viticulturalist Christodoulos. Well…at least I am still first in his list!

Don’t think though that I am suffering too much from all of this. Of course I also ‘live the excitement’ of the harvest as new wines are being made and energy levels at the winery are high! I make my contribution by bringing the team some homemade cakes and snacks to keep going or take Sebastian to ‘help’ his dad for a couple of hours. He already fills up buckets with water if needed!

When the end of October comes, the evenings get cooler and the last grapes are processed, I slowly get back my husband and our family life. That is always satisfying, especially when we can have a first taste of the new wines together and cheer to a successful vintage!

Marleen Zambartas

Marleen Zambartas

Marleen is a dedicated mom to young Sebastian and a supportive wife of a perfectionist winemaker! She loves to be involved in the look& feel of Zambartas winery, enjoys hosting guests and takes care of the communication. If she has time left the end of the day, she enjoys local food, cooking and writing.
Marleen Zambartas