Dorianne and I have just spent 2 weeks on Crete, the largest Greek Island. We stayed at a large resort, The Rimondi Grand Resort and Spa, on the central north coast of the island. We did not visit the two largest cities, Heraklion and Chania, but did visit Rethymnon, a small city near our resort.
The local restaurants featured very good food at low prices and served the wines of Crete, worth exploring, have a rich history (LINK), and are almost all at price points under 10 euros. As you might imagine, whites dominate in the climate and soils here with reds (the ones we tasted anyway) struggling for identity. For an in-depth look, here is a link to a good article (LINK).
Our resort had local wine on tap, or bottles for sale. We found a few indigenous white grapes that we liked, Vidiano, Dafni, and Plyto. There are others, such as Sauvignon Blanc and Muscat grown here as well. The primary red grape is Liatiko, used to make rosés also. The versions I had were light, similar to Pinot Noir, but lacking much of a fruit presence.
Aside from a couple of wine shops, we visited two places where wine is made, one being the Monastery at Arkadi where the wines are still made by the monks. The other was the Kourkoulou Winery located near the center of the island. We had a proper tour of the vineyards, production area, and a tasting at this small production facility (18K bottles per year).
In a building which is about 5 years old, the production facilities are in the basement, the wine shop on the ground floor, and tasting room on the 1st floor. All nicely appointed. The family farms about 40 acres of vineyards in small patches throughout the valley, producing 3 white grapes, Vidiano, Thrapsathiri, and Muscat; plus the red Liatiko (also called Ziatika).The wines tend to be high in alcohol – 14% and above. I was told that is due to the warm climate, but I sense it is more of a preference. Cretans drink the whites and rosés without food often, including taking them to the beach.
In the tasting, the Vidiano stood out with very nice mouthfeel and a balance of fruit and acidity. The rosés, both made with the red grape, were unusual. One was lighter in color due to only about 30 minutes of skin contact. It was very dry with more minerality than fruit on the palate. The other was darker due to 8 hours of skin contact, and had more fruit on the palate, a more pleasing wine to me. The ABV on these was 14 & 14.5% respectively. The red, called Ziatika at this winery, was light in color and very dry, with hints of red fruit, but nothing special.
I’ve been a fan of Assyrtiko, the white grape from Santorini for some time. We bought a bottle at a wine shop during our first week here and it was excellent (and cost 20 euros). I was, therefore, pleased to find a local Assyrtiko from the Heraklion area of Crete. It was at an excellent restaurant in old town Rethymno called Avli Kriti (some images below). The wine was light and acidic, which paired perfectly with our food.
Some other wines we have had include a nice blend of Muscat of Alexandria and Chardonnay from Kanenas Wines (A Myth in a Bottle!) on the Peloponnesian Peninsula (taking one of those home) and a Thrapsathiri as well as a Vidiano from Domenico Wines near Haraklion. There were also house wines from our hotel (on tap from casks) and some other restaurants, none of which we were able to identify.
My sense of the wine scene on Crete is that it is a place for very good whites, some unusual rosés, and reds which can be unpredictable (we did not order reds often as we were eating mostly seafood; we had the red at our hotel when we had lamb, but it was from the cask.). If you can find them where you are, the whites, at least, are worth a try.
To my delight, I have discovered an épicerie spécialisée with Greek products not far from our Lyon neighborhood. I will be checking them out soon!
Copyright 2022 – Jim Lockard