The Dougos family is one of the Greek wine industry's most charming assets. Their bright disposition is an even match for the sunny local climate. Their good nature even seems to have infected their wines.
Dimitrios Dougos entered wine production as a consumate insider. A co-owner of Greece's largest and oldest vine nursery, he began producing wine for family and friends in 1983. His amateur pursuit (if traveling through quality appellation regions buying the best fruit can be considered amateur) created wines so popular around Larissa that in 1992 he purchased vineyards in Prosilia, Rapsani and began building a small winery in Larissa's beautiful Tempe Valley. The first bottling under the Dougos label was released in 1993. The first bottling in the winery was in 1995.
The decision to create a company around his passion was not based solely on his love of wine. Dougos also had an eye on the future of his children, especially son Thanos and daughter Louisa. Thanos, who has his degree in agriculture, and Louisa, a chemist now enrolled in a three-year enology studies program, have recently taken over the reins from their father. Their father and mother, Katerina, could not be more pleased or proud.
Their Rapsani vineyards, on the southern slopes of Mount Olympos, reside at elevations between 450 and 550 meters and are cultivated organically. Plantings display an impressive range of native and foreign varieties. Red native plantings include the AOC Rapsani varieties, Xynomavro, Stavroto and Krasato as well as Limnio. White native grapes include Roditis, the delicate, fruity Batiki and Assyrtiko.
The elevation of the vineyards make them particularly suitable for Western varieties. These include Chardonnay, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet franc and Grenache.
The red varieties are all components of blends that echo the northern Greek tradition of mixed vineyard vinification. These include Methistanes Red, a traditional Rapsani blend of Xynomavro, Stavroto and Krasato, and Meth'ymon, which consists of all the other red varieties as well as some Batiki.
The only monovarietal white is an oak-aged Roditis.
Thanos Dougos has an oak philosophy designed to disengage himself from the delicate dance required of Greek producers who need to meet the needs of both the oak-loving Greek market and oak-sensitive export markets. New oak is never overused in his red wines. Instead, a mix of old and new means the advantages of the former with best of the latter.
Of the whites, only the Meth'ymon Fume (from Roditis), which spends three months in new Allier barrels, gets a heavy Greek dose. Even then we wondered if this intensely extracted wine--as close to a California-style white we've ever encountered in Greece--wasn't better off for the oak contact. There is a first time for everything. Like good California Chardonnay when well-wrought, the oak can even be a pleasure. Such is the case here. We would have been curious to have tried the maiden vintage in which, recalled Mr. Dougos the elder, the red wines were fermented in old whiskey barrels.
The intensity of the wines may have much to do with with the combination of friendly climate and organic farming. Although the family credits an interest in preserving the evironment and the health of their customers, the clean, dense fruit of their wines suggests it is more than just conscience that motivated the decision to go organic. The solid overall structure of all the wines suggests that vineyard location is also a essential piece of the puzzle.
Our visit made clear that public relations will never be a problem for the Dougos family. Their winery, with its classic villa architecture and welcoming courtyard attracts--and wins over--an increasing number of visitors. Our time there was shared with the then Commander of the local Nato base in Larissa and his wife, who were greeted as old friends. From the start it was apparent the good-natured, generous and ebullient Thanos, like the rest of his family, makes such friends easily.