The Dacoutros Family is of Greek origin. Giovanni Dacoutros was still aged ten when he first came to Malta as part of a merchant vessel's crew transporting volcanic pumice stones from his native island of Santorini to Tunis. He immediately fell in love with Malta and opted to remain here despite his young age. Giovanni sustained himself by finding employment as a wine courier for the Portelli Family, established wine merchants since the mid-18th century. Having had some experience with wine-making, he noticed that the wines being sold by the Portellis' were rather average in quality and certainly inferior to those made in Santorini. This compelled him to write to his father back home. Soon enough, a first consignment of red and white wines was dispatched to Malta, generating a steady demand for these better-quality imports.
Giovanni Dacoutros - Harvesting grapes in Santorini
As Giovanni grew older he established a partnership with his employer resulting in the founding of Dacoutros & Portelli Wine Merchants. The venture proved successful and in 1913, 'Ganni il-Grieg', bought his partners out and re-established the firm as Giovanni Dacoutros Ltd,1 setting up office at Archbishop's Street in Valletta. Another two branches were eventually set up in East Street and Fuori Porta Avvanzata, along with rented warehouses next door to those employed by Reading-based brewers H&G Simonds.2 Wine was imported in bulk and distributed by horse or mule-driven carts loaded with barrels. Dacoutros supplied both the military as well as other private merchants. In 1917 he started supplying a small local food and beverage distribution firm run by the Cassar Brothers. After purchasing wholesale wine for retail in bars and taverns for around two years, the brothers opted to start making their own wines, forming the basis of what would later become Marsovin Ltd.
To further his business, Dacoutros started building his own fleet of merchant vessels for importing wine from Santorini and Kalamata, as well as other goods including tobacco, from around the Mediterranean.3 The best-known of these ships was the Maria Dacoutros, bought by the firm in 1919 and commemorated by a Maltese silver coin issued by the Central Bank in 1985. The 34.9-metre long sail-rigged vessel could carry up to 210 tons of wine and was registered with Lloyds Shipping Register as the largest and last wine tanker of its sort. It later saw service as a mail courier between Malta, Gozo and Sicily, and was subsequently adopted as a training ship for port managers before being lost in a storm off Cyprus in April, 1952.4
The Maria Dacoutros Merchant Ship in Harbour & 1985 Commemorative Coin
The investment made in the shipping sector led to Dacoutros Ltd becoming Malta's largest wine importer and resulted in various other initiatives such as the manufacture of wines from locally harvested grapes, juices and soft drinks. The firm first ventured into local wine making in 1943 and founded its first bottling plant a decade later, in 1953. This was followed by the building of a new factory at Fleur-de-Lys in the early 1960s and the acquisition of rights to produce Canada Dry's range of beverages. A second bottling plant was inaugurated in 1974. Their original winery at Marsa seafront from 1881 was reactivated and renovated in 2007 in time for its 125th anniversary, commemorated in 2008. The firm simultaneously launched three new wine brands and marked the event by means of a commemorative coin. This imitative was taken by the family's fourth generation with two women at the helm of the business, namely Cristina Dacoutros and Diana Cutajar Dacoutros. As of 2022, no online evidence of further progression is available with Opencorporates.com listing the firm as being in dissolution.
The scope of this page is to illustrate its history through the bottles and merchandise held within our collection. To read more about the soft drinks made by this firm, kindly access the links below.
Notes & References 1. Ganni il-Grieg, literally John the Greek, is the way Giovanni was referred to by the Maltese - His firm was later rebranded as John Dacoutros & Sons Ltd. Although technically established in 1913, a commemorative coin issued by the company claims 1881 as being its year of foundation, based on the establishment of their winery, then icw with Portelli Wine Merchants. 2. H&G Simonds was one of the leading beer importers since their establishment of a local branch in 1890. 3. The firm eventually owned 21 ships becoming the largest merchant shipping agency enterprise in Malta. 4. A wooden model of the Maria Dacoutros and several shipping items were donated to Heritage Malta by the family heirs and may be viewed at the Maritime Museum in Birgu.
Resources Ships, Wines & Wars by John G. Dacoutros - Synopsis via Independent.com.mt Vintage Years - Mark Camilleri via Timesofmalta.com Re-activated Dacoutros Winery aims for DOK Certification - Ditto 1881 Dacoutros Winery Celebrates Anniversary - Ditto ---
Images Giovanni Dacoutros Photo Portrait - Ships, Wines & Wars via Bdlbools.com Grape Harvest in Santorini during the 1930s - Greece-is.com Maria Dacoutros Mechant Ship Collage - E. Attard via Louis Cardona on Pinterest.com / Coincatalog.net --
Some images may have been cropped, resized or altered for better clarity & presentation