Greek wines are trendy and the summer of 2023 led many consumers to try Assyrtiko from Santorini, Xinomavro from Naoussa, and Vidiano from Crete for the first time. While wine has been made in Greece for centuries, it wasn’t until the late 1900s that Greece was acknowledged as a modern hot spot of incredible quality wines. At the height of this Greek wine revolution, in 1988, the Dourakis family winery was established by Andreas Dourakis in Alikampos, Crete.
Now with 15 different labels and the next generation at the helm, the Dourakis family is making waves on Greece’s largest island and creating excellent Greek wines that the world needs to try. I had the opportunity to sit down with Antonis and Evie Dourakis, the brother-sister duo running the Dourakis winery, on The Wine CEO Podcast and they shared the wonderful challenges and blessings of owning and operating a family business.
For Antonis and Evie, working at their family’s winery is a true honor. While at a young age they may have dreamed of other careers, their father quickly shared a strong encouragement that his children follow in his footsteps. Antonis, the head winemaker at Dourakis winery, shared “I was maybe like 5 years old…and [my father] was like ‘let’s drink some wine, what do you smell?’ Maybe it was water, I don’t know what it was, but I was saying something like ‘I smell strawberries.’ And he was like ‘Oh my god, you have such a good nose! You are gonna be such an amazing winemaker!’” This strong encouragement made both children ignore the possibility of a corporate job and dive into the world of owning a family business.
But while everyone dreams of a job where they can work for themselves, what most people don’t realize is that unlike a corporate job where you only work 9 to 5, owning your own business means working 24/7 without any semblance of a clear job description. Evie Dourakis, head of Sales & Marketing for the Dourakis Family Winery shared this transparent reality in episode #131 of The Wine CEO Podcast. “We do a lot more than we should. From creating a label, to choosing the blend, to make sure that every day the right people work at the right spots….it’s not only one thing.”
While some might say that Evie and Antonis were forced to join the family business, they see it as an incredible blessing. Evie explained that the blessing comes with hard work and complications, but she wouldn’t trade it for anything. “We’re blessed. I would [have] studied something different to what I have studied now if it wasn’t for this business. But maybe I wouldn’t be able to make ends meet.”
Evie and Antonis shared that one of the greatest challenges they face is finding balance between respecting tradition and constantly evolving to remain modern and relevant. Evie said that they love to experiment with new grapes in the vineyard or new experiences at the winery but that these additional hobbies and projects take time and can add more challenges to running the business. “The more you work, the more you can actually create, and the more things you want to change – the more complicating too.” It’s an ever evolving challenge for a business owner to decide where to invest their time to grow their consumer base and stay ahead of the trends.
When their father Andreas established the winery in 1988 it was not as popular to grow indigenous grape varieties, but Andreas believed that it was important to keep Greek grape varieties alive and show the world why these unique grapes are so excellent. Today, the winery grows almost all of the 11 indigenous Cretan varieties as well as a few international grapes. Andreas was also well ahead of his time in regards to sustainability efforts and consumer experiences, becoming one of the first wineries in Crete to recycle, as well as offer wine tourism visits and tastings. Antonis and Evie honor this spirit by helping the winery invest in organic vineyard cultivation as well as using the lightest glass bottles possible to limit carbon footprint. They feel strongly that these commitments are needed to protect the earth for future generations of winemakers. It’s clear that Antonis and Evie are following in their father’s footsteps to plan ahead for the next generation of Dourakis family winemakers. Clearly owning a family winery may have its challenges, but the rewards far exceed any difficulties and it’s a profession to eagerly pass down to future generations.
The playful sibling banter and passion for making excellent, modern wine, while remaining respectful to their father’s legacy, made for a very fun conversation and one of my favorite interviews on The Wine CEO Podcast. To check out my full episode with Antonis and Evie, click here to watch the episode on YouTube or listen in on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Amazon Music.