To make it clear: I am not a Sommelier! I do not speak the language of wine passionate like: the wine tastes like butter, jam, fruits and smells of wild flowers, violet, green or what ever. Wine simply has to be of my taste: dry and easy to drink. I like to drink wine when I am in the mood for it or to round-up a nice meal.
So, whoever reads this post should not expect an analyze of the taste and aroma of Cretan wines. It is nothing else then a story about an excursion I made with my daughter one week-end at the Open Door day of the Greek wineries on Crete (www.winesofcrete.gr/cretewines/en/home.html).
I did not like the Cretan wines at all when I decided to stay on Crete 20 years ago. Most were simple, not really professionally made wines without character. The Cretans made their wines mainly from raisins and mature in simple oak barrels. They did not have anything to do with the wines I knew from home: my father used to distribute red wine from the Provence and white wine from Alsace under his colleagues, friends and acquaintance while he was still working.
I was lucky that my father-in-law, who also made wine from his raisins, matured his wine in an old Sherry barrel. The flavor of this barrel was significant for his wine as it resembled a lots of a good sherry. My personal highlight was when he opened a barrel he had kept 30 years (it has been filled at the birth of his second son) at our engagement party.
Throughout the last years a new generation has grown up with wines on Crete. The children and grand-children of the wine grower have studied viniculture and worked abroad and brought their knowledge into the parents and grandparents’ enterprises. A lot of Cretan wines can compete on the international market.
But there was a certain reason why I took the chance to make this excursion especially on this day.
I am working in a hotel as a Guest Relations Manager. On one of our weekly welcome meetings of your repeating guests we offered a wine which totally flashed me: Moschato Spinas (Μοσχατο Σπινας) of the winery Paterianakis (www.paterianakis.gr). As the opening hours say that the winery is closed on weekend I wanted to take the chance to see this place as these are the only days of the week I have time. The winery is situated directly above a good road, in the winegrowing area of Peza, shortly after the village of Melesses. I have been welcomed by a friendly young lady who let me try all the wines they have. In the broshure it was mentioned that all wines were of biological cultivation. Unfortunately it was not allowed to take any pictures, even though there was nothing else to see then the shop and the guest room. It was also not possible to visit the vinery or the wine cellar.
The wine I liked most was definately the one I knew from work: „Moschato Spinas“. A beautiful light-yellow colored wine, with the smell of Muscat grape, full-bodied, easy to drink. Simply a wine you can drink on a warm summer evening. As red wine I liked „Melissokipos“ most. A blend of Kotsifali and Mantilari grapes which reminded me of the red wines of south France.
Just a few kilometers away, driving along a gravel road, you reach the winery Lyrarakis (www.lyrarakis.com). Compared to the other winery just a few people found their way to this one. Even though just about 4 km apart the wines of Lyrarakis are completely different.
The wine which impressed myself most was a white wine named „Dafni“. Δαφνη means laurel and this is exactly how the wine smelled and tasted of! A real excepional flavor experience! The varietal Dafni is one of the oldest grapes on Crete. It almost disappeared from the vineyards until few vintners started a revival of a grape which was cultivated on Crete long before Christ. It is a grape which withstands the hot summer and the drought of the island.
Among the almost vanished Cretan vine belongs also the Plyto grape. The winery Lyrarakis is one of the few who grows this variety again. It is a nice, fresh white wine.
Another very interesting white wine was “Vidiano”, a wine made 100% from the Vidiano grape, matured in barrels. From the glass I senced an intense smell: the scent of peach and Mirabelle, which also were able to taste in the finish. I found this wine very interesting and now in retrospect I think I even possibly could like this wine.
My daughter discovered in the cooler, between the wines, a bottle that was completely covered with a white-black label. When asked what that was we were informed that this is “Za Za Zu” – after tasting I noticed that if one drinks too much of it will really get zazazu! It was a semi-dry sparkling wine, which was not too bad!
Unfortunately I did not have too much time to visit more wineries on this day but I sure will do on other occasions again.
Crete has developed its own grapes over the years of seclusion. Here one finds the red Kotsifali, Mantilari and Liatiko and the white grape Vilana. Other grapes cultivated are Romeiko, Vidiano, Dafni, Plyto, Thrapsathyri, Malvasia and Moschato Spina. International varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot and Chardonnet have adapted well to the Cretan climate. (www.winesofcrete.gr/cretewines/en/Article/TheWines/Varieties_687.html)
A map of Crete with the a list of all wineries of the island has been published by Wines of Crete, the association of wineries in Crete. The main growing areas can be found around the villages of Peza and Dafnes. A few are located in the area of Rethymno, Chania and Sitia.
Crete is worth a visit – not only for the sun and the history but also because of the excellent wines!