Greek wines are the hidden gems of the Aegean. Winemaking in Greece is about as old as the Parthenon. Greeks have been making wines for over 5000 years. Top producers are making excellent wines from local indigenous varieties as well as international varietals. With over 300 indigenous grapes(many I cannot even pronounce or have heard of), the task to find the right wine may be daunting. Top sommeliers and wine aficionados have started to take note of the high quality of wines coming from this region. One producer that has especially stood out are the wines of Dougos Winery, most notably their Rapsani should be explored. The wines from Dougos Winery are elegant, age worthy and distinctively unique.
Dougos Winery, one of the most respected wineries in Greece was first started in 1991. The winery encompasses 30 hectares and 12 grape varietals(French and Greek). This small boutique winery is located at the foothills of Mount Olympus in Tempi Valley, an area rooted deep in Greek Mythology. The winery has state of the art technology with modern vinification methods along with deep respect for the land, the vineyards are organically cultivated.
They produce 12 varietals. The Greek varietals are Xinomavro, Krasato, Stavroto, Limniona, Roditis, and Assyrtiko. The French varietals grown are Syrah, Grenache, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. The vineyards are located northeast of Mount Olympus at a 2000 feet elevation in an area with a cool microclimate. The vines are exposed to long sunny days with breaks of wind from the Aegean Sea. There is also cold melted ice water that comes down from Mount Olympus that moderates the heat during the hot summers, and also allows for a slow maturation of the grapes. The soils are rich iron schist and the cultivation of the grapes is dry and organic.
Rooted in Greek Mythology, Rapsani is a small picturesque village at the foothills of Mount Olympus. It is in this village where 12 Olympian Gods are said to have made the famous godly wine “Nectar”. Local myths claim that whoever is present in Rapsani and works there, can feel the presences of the Gods as if they are next to them and helping them. Homer too mentioned Rapsani wines in the Iliad. If you are like me and love Greek Mythology you may fall in love with Rapsani just for this alone. Rapsani is an area rich in myths, legends, culture and history. This is evident in the town which is sprinkled with water mills, churches and homes that are centuries old.
Viticulture in Rapsani goes back to the 18th century, and is the main occupation of the town’s residents. Today Rapsani has achieved PDO(Protected Designation of Origin) status, producing wines from Xinomavro, Krassato and Stavroto. It is here in Rapsani that Dougos Winery produces it famous Rapsani wines. There are two labels here, Rapsani and Rapsani Old Vines. Though there are other producers of Rapsani wines, Dougos is considered to be the only Rapsani due to its unique location and deep-rooted history in the village. The old vines of Dougos Rapsani are the oldest in Rapsani, some vines more than 80 years old and still growing strong.
Dougos Rapsani wines are extremely special wines, rooted in Greek mythology and legends. The wines are unique and have a deep sense of place.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting Thanos Dougos at a small intimate wine dinner in New York City. Thanos is owner of Dougos Winery. Thanos is a charming man, enthusiastic and generous with his wines. Thanos shared his family history and his passion for winemaking. His grandfather was one of the first men in Greece to grow vines and make rootstock, owning the first vine nursery in Greece. Later his father went on to do the same and today at 73-year-old his father still sells rootstock to wine growers. Thanos’ father first bought Dougos Winery in 1991 and that is where winemaking began for the Dougos family. Today Thanos who is an agronomist makes wine along with his sister Louisa who is a chemist, oenologist and co-owner of Dougos Winery. Louisa plays a major role in making Dougos wines. Thanos enjoys coming to the US and sharing his wines first hand with sommeliers, media, restaurant owners and wine shops. He says the US market is extremely open and receptive to his wines, especially as Greek wines have been gaining recognition and popularity. The story of Rapsani captures wine drinkers hearts and palates.
Thanos’s philosophy is to produce the highest quality wines, with deep care and attention to the land and environment. I asked Thanos what was his favorite wine amongst his 7 labels, and he placed his hand on his heart and said it was Rapsani Old Vines. There is so much pride, history and quality in these wines. When Thanos is not drinking his own wines, he loves Northern Rhone wines, a passion that I too share with Thanos.
Dougos Meth’lmon Acacia 2015
Meth’Imon in ancient Greek means “with you”. Thanos says after you drink this wine of finesse, you will always have its exquisite character with you.
This wine is a native Assyrtiko with a splash of Sauvignon Blanc, which adds to the aromatics of the wine. The wine is unique because it is fermented and matured in large Acacia barrels. The Acacia is better for aromatics of neutral grapes like Assyrtiko. I especially enjoyed this wine, as it was a nice change from oak aged wines. The aromas were alluring with sweet and floral notes. The palate was scintillating with fresh notes of lime, peach and apple. It had a nice acidity and minerality on the finish.
Thanos had just flown into NYC from Greece and came straight to join us for dinner, so you can imagine his jet lag. He said this wine was the perfect wine to wake up his palate He describes the wine as fresh, young, lively, fragrant and floral.
With its fresh acidity the wine will pair beautifully with tuna tartar and shellfish. It also pairs well with Greek dishes like hummus, eggplant, and tomato salad with cucumber and feta.
Dougos Meth’lmon 7 2015
The Meth’Imon 7 is often called “the Greek Chateauneuf du Pape”. Thanos playfully refers to it as Chateauneuf du Tempi, in honor of the where the grapes are grown. With a gorgeous deep purple hue, the wine has notes of blackberries, cherries, chocolate and smoke. The palate is rich, velvety, and concentrated with firm tannins. There is a nice long finish with a hint of oak at the end. I highly encourage you to stock up on this wine in your cellar.
The wine will pair well with big meats, like roasted lamb, grilled steak or pork
Dougos Rapsani 2012
This rare and unique wine is made with 34% Xinomavro, 33% Krasato and 33% Stavroto. Made in the village of Rapsani, which is one of four PDO regions for the most notable red Greek varieties, Xinomavro, blended in equal parts with Krasato and Stavroto.
There are notes of cedar, smoke, strawberries and spice on the nose. The palate has spice and fruit with nice grippy tannins. There is a prominence of herbs, especially thyme. This is a solid wine and a perfect example that great wine does not need to be expensive.
The wine pairs well with cheese, especially soft cheeses like Ricotta. It also pairs well with pastas, especially with a rich thick bolognese sauce.
Dougos Rapsani Old Vines 2013
Dougos has elevated Rapsani to prestigious levels. This wine is special and unique, made with vines that are 65 years old. The wine can be drunk now but can also be put away in the cellar for years to come. There are notes of red fruit on the palate, most notably cherries, strawberries, and plum. The tannins are soft and well-integrated. The mouthfeel is creamy and concentrated with a long finish. There is a wonderful freshness on the palate with nice acidity. This is an exquisite wine that requires a space in your cellar to be enjoyed for years to come.
The wine will pair well with lamb chops, meatballs, or a nice juicy grilled steak.
Come explore, drink and taste the wines of Dougos Winery. I am sure they will steal your heart and transport you to the little village of Rapsani. The wines of Dougos Winery have been awarded the highest ratings by Robert Parker and others for ten consecutive years. Dougos wines are consistent, high quality wines to drink now or cellar.