Annual wine harvest has started
With the annual grape harvest underway, this might be a good time to enjoy a glass of Cretan wine.
Drink local - Cretan Wine
The grape has always been an incredible fruit that offered so many things to the people of Crete, who have never stopped to respect and evolve their tradition around grapes and winemaking. From the depths of history to the amazing and very well educated winemakers of today, Cretan wine and grape harvest live on.
Lost in centuries…
Winemaking and the people of Crete go hand in hand for centuries since winemaking and viticulture have been essential for the growth of the Minoan civilization and the importance of the island in antiquity. Large amphora, the discovery of underground storage facilities, as well as Minoan fresco and artifacts, demonstrate the importance of winemaking in Minoan everyday life.
Since wine was among the chosen products for exportation, the Romans brought a new dimension to winemaking as their need for large amounts forced the cultivation of vineyards all over the island. The people of Crete advanced their knowledge and specialization but the division of the Roman Empire stalled the wine production practices.
With the taking over of the Venetians and their marketing connections, the Cretan wine started being exported again but, after the Venetian Era, the Ottomans gave little attention to the continuation of wine trading, thus turning the production into family-oriented productions with each house producing their own wine just for domestic consumption.
This domestication of winemaking and its sudden change from a “world commodity” to a local product, brought a lot of changes to how people perceive it today.
The miracle of wine-making: an experience to remember
An unforgettable way to learn everything about the famous Cretan wine is to mingle with the locals and join the wine harvesting on the island. The art of Cretanwinemaking is a tradition which has been passed down from generation to generation. Strong family traditions are the reason why winemaking could survive for thousands of years and reach almost perfection.
The ripening and the harvest take place, depending on the variety and the altitude of the area, in the first ten days of August until the beginning of October. When all grapes have been harvested, they are pressed either by machines or, more traditionally, by stamping with the feet at the patitiri- (πατητήρι). The wine harvesting has a festive character and the air is filled with joy and gratefulness for the harvest. The farmers exchange local stories of the area, laughter is in the air, people sing and dance traditional Cretan songs and everyone enjoys a glass of local wine.
Grab the opportunity to vine-harvest in a family vineyard in order to take part in the wine-making process and hear stories about origins behind the wine-making tradition while enjoying the fantastic view of the sea and the mountains around.
Wine harvesting in Crete is certainly a must see for every visitor of the island and an experience to remember along with the wonderful beaches, the beautiful landscape, the vibrant small villages, the hospitality and the numerous options for filling the agenda of your visit.
Indigenous varieties you have to try
Given the stunning range of microclimates, soil types and indigenous grapes on the island of Crete, the complexity of Cretan wine is very interesting for every traveler in search of flavors. Crete has such a diverse environment that it could be considered a continent itself so, each and every variety has its own special, unique flavourful characteristics that will surely surprise every wine lover. These savory, herbal wines are well-matched with the Cretan cuisine, which features a plethora of wild herbs and greens, acidic cheeses and “wild”-tasting lamb.
Vidiano (Βιδιανό): it is an easy-drinking, dry white wine which is considered as the rising diva of the Cretan vineyard and it has a unique clear floral and apricot aroma, a rich body and a transfixing creamy taste. Marked by the depth of fruit and freshness, its character is winning over ever more wine lovers.
Vilana (Βηλάνα): it has a fascinating fine aroma, a light taste, and a refreshing lemon-scented acidity. It produces fruity wines with a balanced structure and the complex taste of ripe fruit and herbs.
Dafni (Δαφνί): it is a beguiling white variety with a name derived from the Greek word for laurel. It has a bay leaf and fennel scent, along with other dried green herbs. It’s a particularly excellent pairing with the wild herbs that are a main ingredient of Cretan cuisine, especially when also paired with aged sheep’s milk cheese.
Thrapsathiri (Θραψαθήρι): it gives balanced wines, rich in flavor that have a pale lemon green color, a moderately intense nose. Fully dominated by primary fruit, mainly melon, and peach.
Plito (Πλυτό): it is a remarkable case of a variety which was literally snatched away from the verge of extinction. It has a refreshing acidity, a lemon scent, and a light taste.
Malvazia di Candia (Μαλβαζία): it offers a real scented bouquet to both, sweet and dry wines
Muscat of Spina (Μοσχάτο Σπίνας): it gives wines that tend towards a fresh floral and sweet fruit sensibility, with less muskiness and funk (tobacco, smoke)
Liatiko (Λιάτικο): It is a red grape variety that can produce very fine dry red wine but it reaches its apogee in the sweet versions. It may be lacking in color but it offers unique sweetness and character. It gives aromatic red wines with aromas of sweet cherries, roses, rose stems, and allspice, with nice balancing acidity. A few producers use it to make a sun-dried sweet wine. It is a great summer red when served chilled.
Kotsifali (Κοτσιφάλι): it is considered by many Cretan winemakers as the most important wine on the island and the one most capable of expressing a sense of place. It is soft and mellow, full of plum fragrances.
Mantilari (Μαντηλάρι): it is the natural blending partner to Kotsifali but Mantilarihas deeper pigment, more generous red and black fruit notes, and a richer texture
Romeiko (Ρωμέικο): it gives lively red wines with high alcohol content, average acidity, and variable color
Responsibility, quality, and traceability are the main “ingredients” of eponymous bottled wines of our many top quality winemakers. Choosing to enjoy an eponymous bottled wine means that you are actually helping the Cretan wine sector to claim its position in the domestic and global market by promoting not just Cretan rich wine heritage, but, more importantly, its unique terroirs, grape varieties and know-how.
Wine roads and wineries: discover the secrets of wine-making along with a spectacular landscape whether you are a dedicated oenophile, a lover of luxury, a spontaneous visitor that stops at a winery by chance or a “foodie” who prizes the authenticity of local cuisine and is focusing on food-wine pairings, most modern-day Cretan wineries are definitely created with specific areas for the welcoming of visitors. They have a “strong identity” linked to the owner or wine producer with the special imprint of his or her personal winemaking passion and they combine a venerable history and a beautiful edifice with signature products of great quality and tradition. If you perceive wine tasting as a compliment or indeed as part and parcel of the land you are in, you can follow a scenic wine country road, enjoy the ever-present cultural and natural heritage, meet-and-greet with wine-makers, taste great Cretan vintages from the past, keep up with the new wine trends, have a delicious lunch in a farmhouse restaurant and connect with real Cretans who work the land, make their own wine, and respect their timeless heritage.
Your shopping experience should include a bottle of Cretan wine of your preference in order to go back home and exchange your wine stories and passion with other wine-lovers!