If you want to raise a toast to summer, to holidays, or just to an appreciation of fine wines, then the vineyards of Crete are the perfect place to visit.
You can arrange a call to one winery or book an organised tour of several with most offering plenty of opportunities to sample the produce, perhaps over a freshly-prepared lunch.
Many wineries also have olive groves alongside the vines, making and bottling their own oils, and you are likely to want to buy a selection of what you taste as a souvenir of a fascinating day out.
The regions of Archanes and Peza, around Heraklion, are particularly blessed with fertility and produce renowned grape varieties including liatiko, vilana, vidiano, thrapsathiri, malvasia, athiri, kotsifali and mandilaria.
The wine-making traditions of Crete date from at least the civilization of the Minoans – even the image of their sacred bull was freely used in the shape of storage and drinking vessels – and a wine press 3,500 years old was found in the Vathipetro region. Egyptian murals showing the arrival of ships from the island confirm that they exported to other parts of the Mediterranean and today’s growers can boast of customers all over the world.
This family-owned business is the largest winery in Crete. Chemical engineer Stelios Alexakis founded it in the 1970s along with his wife Sofia. Their sons, Lazaros and Apostolos, are oenologists.
The winery successfully exports its labels across the world including the US, Russia and China. Their award-winning wines are special thanks to the incorporation of local varieties including Vilana, Vidiano, Malvasia, Athiri, Kotsifali and Mandilaria.
Stilianou Winery at Kounavi
This boutique family winery produces organic wines and olive oil. Expect a warm welcome and try Theon Gi, a dry red wine from traditional Cretan varieties kotsifali and mantilari, matured in French oak barrels with fruits and spices flavours.
Theon Dora, an organic dry white wine from traditional Cretan grape varieties vilana, vidiano and thrapsathiri, has limited production.
Scalani Hills Boutari Winery
At this elegant yet contemporary winery, state-of-the-art meets Cretan wine tradition. Here, wines are paired with fine Cretan dishes. It’s a wonderful place to enjoy a meal in the shade of pretty vines or after the sun sets. The grounds also house the Scalani Hills Residences, a luxury boutique property built right on the scenic vineyard.
Wines produced here are an eclectic mix of both Cretan and foreign grape varieties. Top labels to try at this Dafne winery include femina from Malvasia di Candia Aromatica or the Vidiano from the Aspros Lagos line.
Silva Daskalaki Winery
This small yet picturesque village of Siva is home to this fantastic winery where traditions that have been handed down for generations. Guests can sign up for three different guided tours which include wine tastings and a look at the property’s vinification and bottling areas.
This Venerato village winery is set on the lowest hills of Psiloritis mountains, an area known for its ancient wine production. In fact, a historic Roman stone press is on display here. Favorite wines to try include the single grape Vilana, the Vidiano and a dessert wine made with Liatiko.
This beautiful property offers its visitors a view of both the mountains and sea. A wine tasting here will get you acquainted with wines made from rare Cretan grape varieties. The winery is known for reviving two ancient Cretan varieties, Dafni and Plyto.
This winery, set in the charming village of Kato Asites, is masterful at creating wines that bring out the best of special native varieties such as Liatiko, Vidiano and Mandilari. This private small vineyard is run by the Diamantakis family who are locally famous for having a long history of producing excellent wines.