Always on the move, a look to the left, a short run to supervise the label of the last bottles of vilana, his mobile phone in his pocket, Nikos Douloufakis is a dynamic winegrower…. “I love this job. It is an exceptional passion. Always on the move, go from the vines to a meeting and then run to the office to settle the last orders,… It’s so varied. Sometimes with a little anxiety when you see how much we still have to do and how much time we have left over the day. Not to mention the hazards of the weather,” says the winegrower. His passion for wine has been cultivated since a very young age. “I still remember my first glass of wine. It was at the wine festival, in the village square, in Dafnes. I must have been 8 years old, at most 9. I was with my father and mother. I still remember the feeling of my first sip of wine. Then the result…” he says in a burst of laughter. “I must say, I had three of them and I was a little drunk!” This passion, this man of the land, has never lost it. With the quiet strength of men driven by their ideas, he worked to reestablish an old grape variety that had practically disappeared: the vidiano..
Virtually disappeared twenty years ago from the wine landscape of Crete, Vidiano was reintroduced thanks to a few Cretan winegrowers, including Minas Tamiolakis and Nikos Douloufakis. The agronomist specialized in viticulture, Haroula Spinthiropoulou, having completed his research on this native grape variety, gave a very positive report on the potential of this grape variety. Vidiano produces large bunches and therefore gives its best yield on soils that are not too rich. The calcareous soil of Dafnes was therefore an ideal place which partly explains the quality of the wines made from this grape variety in the region. This grape variety maintains a good level of acidity thanks to the favourable climate of Crete. Thus, the tartaric acid level found in studies of the house wines from Vidiano was between 6.7 and 7.3 grams per litre and a pH of 3.22 to 3.35. Another recognized advantage is its ability to age without alteration. Due to its late flowering and ripening, Vidiano generally has very present fruity notes of peach and apricot. When kept in oak barrels, it naturally develops complementary aromas of vanilla, toast, butter,….. This makes it particularly suitable for seafood and fish.
On his return from Alba, Nikos perfected his practical training and then took over the reins of the Douloufakis company. “I had already been in wine since 1989, but then I had no theoretical knowledge.” With his technical and theoretical background, he decided to start his own production. “My first bottled wine was 100% liatikos (a local Cretan grape variety for red wine). It was 1997.” Nikos follows a logical path in his head: experimenting with the grape varieties before selecting the best ones to get the best out of them. “I started with international grape varieties. It was the first to plant Sauvignon Blanc in the region and probably on the island. “In 2000, we also planted San Giovese. A wine that I like it very much and whose grape variety is well adapted to the island. We currently produce 2500 bottles of it”. Chardonnay, Sirah, Cabernet,… “For all these years, I have known my grape varieties” continues the winegrower. “We have learned to select the international varieties that are most suitable for the Cretan soil and climate.” For these varieties, it was quite easy because there was a lot of documentation and a lot of clonal selection work, but for the Cretan varieties, everything was more complicated. “We had to do this work ourselves, with the help of an agronomist for varieties such as Vilana, kiostifali, Vidiano, of course, Muscat de Spinas,…” During his studies in Italy, Nikos noted an anecdote: the muscat of Malvasia di Candia aromatisa, very popular in Venice, comes from his island of Crete. All it takes is for curiosity to drive him to plant this grape variety on his land. The evolution of the house’s wines marks a progressive, but not ostracistic, transition towards the promotion of the Cretan terroir. Far from denying grape varieties such as Syrah and Chardonnay, which can pleasantly complete the aromatic balance of his wines, Nikos Douloufakis has done a titanic job of optimal conditioning and clonal selection of the Cretan grape varieties, which is now bearing fruit. The house, one of the spearheads of Cretan winegrowing, regularly receives international awards. Proof that work pays off….. .
I do not have a wine that has left me with an unforgettable memory. And yet I have tasted many, some great and some very good. For me, a wine is worth above all for the moment it shares. The same wine, without a good state of mind, will be perceived in a very different way. The wine has character and is linked to our state of mind. Thus, my best wine-growing memory is the wine I drank when my first son was born, even if it may not have been the best. And here in Crete, wine is at every stage of life: from baptism to death, marriage and church. We have a particular relationship to wine. I remember, for example, that one day in 1995, a friend of mine who I was a wedding witness to came to me to buy my small production of Kotsifali, which was experimental at the time, for his wedding. It was like selling a child… Even to my best friend, I said no!” And to leave with a loud burst of laughter. Things have changed since then, with Douloufakis successfully producing and selling 250 tonnes of wine per year. .