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Home / Things to do / Food and Drink / Cretan Wines
Cretan Wines

About Cretan wines one can state that they can be very pleasant – distinguished even – in taste, but since they are mostly produced in bulk by cooperatives, their quality may be uneven. However, several boutique wineries in Crete are now producing some excellent wines from local varieties.

The better wines are labelled with their region of origin clearly stated. Popular wine grapes include Villana, Kotsifali, Mandilari and Liatiko. Over the last few years quite a few varieties of French grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot have been grown successfully.

The house wines that are served in the taverns are usually very presentable and very reasonably priced. You can choose between red, white and rose wine, which usually comes from one of the cooperatives and which is served in carafes.

Wine is one of the necessities of the Cretan way of life and part of its trinity of oil, bread and wine. It is drunk daily, at feasts and important events. Traditionally, a Cretan farmer’s day would not start without a breakfast that included a glass of home-made wine and a barley rusk. So what if there’s no consistent wine quality or if the bottle doesn’t carry a label and serial number; the quintessence is to enjoy the wine all together with some good parea (company). In that respect Crete’s philoxenia (hospitality) surely hasn’t changed a bit!

Today Crete holds one fifth of the entire Greek wine production, with vine groves that cover a surface area of 125,000acres – the numerous barrels of house wine in houses’ yards and store rooms excluded, as many Cretans still produce their own wine. Different in colour and always stronger than bottled wine, each family considers its own wine to be the best. And some of it is really enjoyable and at least free of preservatives.

Most bottled wines, many of which are excellent, come from the regions of Sitia, Arhanes, Peza and to some extent Kissamos. They’re mostly produced in cooperatives, though some individual names like Ikonomos, Michalakis bros, Boutari, Minos and Lirarakis can be found on the market.

Sitia produces very pleasant dry white table wines from the Villana variety and red wines with a fiery colour from the Liatiko variety that carry a VQPRD (quality wine produced in an established region) label. Arhanes and the Peza region have rich red wines with VQPRD from the Kotsifali variety, a spicy wine with a colour that varies from dark to rose. From this region is also Mandelari, an excellent older, maybe even ancient variety that makes strong, nearly black wine.

A serious attempt has been undertaken to revive Malvasia, a local variety that was as good as forgotten in the past and has now made a remarkable come-back. A mainly white dessert wine with a somewhat spicy aroma and a fresh fruity flavour, it was renowned throughout Europe during the Venetian period. Even Shakespeare mentioned it in his play Richard III and the French Rabelais in his ‘Gargantua and Pandagruel’.