Historically Greece is known to be the birthplace of wine with a diverse viticultural landscape and a plethora of local indigenous varieties. Today Greece is producing exciting wines with a focus on local varieties with modern wine-making techniques. One of the most dynamic winemakers from Greece is Thanos Dougos of Dougos Winery. Thanos is a skillful winemaker and a visionary as he is known to make some of the best wines in Greece.
Over the years, I had met Thanos Dougos at wine dinners in New York City and was instantly enamored by his wines. His passion and dedication to raising the quality of Greek wines were evident. I have always enjoyed Dougos wines and they are my first choice when choosing Greek wines for friends and family. Recently I was invited to visit the winery and I couldn’t hold my excitement at the opportunity to visit Thanos in his element at his winery in Thessalia and climb the mythical Mount Olympus with him.
The visit to Dougos Winery was an incredible journey, where we toured the cellars and tasted several wines. We then hopped into Thanos’s car and made our way up Mount Olympus. Accessing Dougos’s vineyards on Mount Olympus was a bumpy ride. The vineyards are only accessible through rugged dirt roads. Once at the top at approximately 2000 feet, the site was breathtaking. Thanos explained the vineyards faced northeast with the Rapsani village was off to one side, old vine vineyards in front and the distant the Aegean sea.
Dougos Winery is one of the most respected wineries in Greece. It was first started in 1991 by Thanos’s father Dimitrios Dougos. He had the foresight to purchase old vine vineyards in Rapsani on Mount Olympus. In 1994 he built the winery and in 1996 Thanos joined his father. ln 2006, his sister Louiza joined the family winery. Today, Thanos is the viticulturist and Louiza is the winemaker. Together they make wines from indigenous Greek varieties as well as blends with international grapes. Thanos explains that the family comes from a viticultural background as their grandfather started the first vine nurseries in Greece, which was established in 1950.
The winery is located in the Tempi Valley, at the foothills of Mount Olympus in what constitutes the PDO Rapsani. The winery encompasses 30 hectares with 12 grape varieties(French and Greek). They are a small boutique winery and the production is small with only 70,000 bottles produced annually. The winery has state-of-the-art technology with modern vinification methods along with deep respect for the land as the vineyards are organically cultivated.
The vineyards are located northeast of Mount Olympus at a 2000 feet elevation in an area with a cool microclimate. The vines are strategically exposed to long sunny days with breaks of wind from the Aegean Sea which is visible in the distance. 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 in iron schist and the cultivation of the grapes is dry and organic.
The Dougos vineyards overlook Rapsani. Rooted in Greek Mythology, Rapsani is a small picturesque village on 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 presence of the Gods as if they are next to them, 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, vines and history.
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 his 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.
TASTING DOUGOS WINES
DOUGOS METH’IMON ACACIA
Meth’Imon Acacia is made with 95% Assyrtiko with a splash of Sauvignon Blanc. Assyrtiko is Greece’s most beloved grape variety and Thanos makes one of the best. The wine is fermented and aged on lees for 10 months in large Acacia barrels. Due to barrel aging, there is nice richness and texture on the wine. It is round and complex and will develop for up to five years.
The wine is made on the hills overlooking the Aegean Sea. The ocean breezes impart nice minerality on the wine. The wine is expressive with floral notes and tropical fruit. This is a delicious and unique interpretation of Assyrtiko. 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’IMON LIMNIONA
Meth’Imon Limniona is an ancient red grape variety originating in Thessaly. Wines made from Limniona are making a splash and leaving an impression on local and international markets. It is considered to be a rising star amongst the greek red varieties. Production of Limniona is small with only a handful of producers making this wine. Thanos along with eight other producers are diligently trying to revive this ancient grape variety. Dougos Winery produces a small amount (1800 bottles) of Limniona, it is a small artisanal wine that you need to get your hands on.
A perfect summer red wine, Meth’Imon Limniona is refreshing with notes of red fruits, exotic spices and herbal notes. It is an easy-drinking wine but still has nice complexity. Don’t mistake this for a simple wine, it has depth and complexity. The tannins are mellow but well structured. If you don’t like heavy tannic wines, this is the perfect wine for you, it is juicy and fresh. Thanos serves it slightly chilled at 16 degrees celsius.
Pair Meth’Imon Limniona with meats, grilled steaks, hearty stews and firm cheeses. Its bright acidity makes it a versatile food pairing.
DOUGOS RAPSANI PDO 2018
Dougos makes two Rapsani wines. This wine is made from his single-vineyard younger vines which are 30+ years old, and not young by wine standards. Rapsani PDO is made with three indigenous Greek grape varieties: Xinomavro, Krasato and Stavroto. The three varieties are cultivated on the same parcel and same vineyards. The wine is aged 12 months in old American oak and is a blend of Xinomavro 40%, Krassato 40% and Stavroto 20%.
This is an incredible wine with notes of red fruit, sweet spice, and herbs. With bright acidity, nice balance and juicy finish, the wine is impressively elegant. The wine pairs well with cheese, especially soft cheeses like Ricotta. It also pairs well with pasta, especially with a rich thick bolognese sauce.
DOUGOS RAPSANI PDO OLD VINES 2017
Rapsani Old Vines is produced from low-yielding, top-notch quality grapes with vines that are 65-80 years old. Dougos has elevated Rapsani to prestigious levels. The wine is strikingly delicious with its savory characteristics and distinct minerality. Bright red fruit with herbal and botanical notes engulfs the mouth. This is an incredibly well-structured and elegant wine that leaves a long-lasting and memorable finish. Classic red, it is matured in French oak barrels for 18 months and in bottles for another year. It is a delicious blend of Xinomavro 65%, Krassato 25% and Stavroto 10%.