Few people know that Crete has one of the oldest wine traditions in Europe. Indeed, grape cultivation appeared during the Minoan period 4,000 years ago, and the historic winemaking region of Heraklion is actually Greece’s second largest wine area, which says a lot.
If you are a wine lover, you should give these wineries and their products a try, perhaps even taking a wine trip across the beautiful island of Crete.
Manousakis Winery, established in 1994, lies near Vatolakkos, in the municipality of Platanias, 20 minutes outside of Chania. The winery cultivates grapes of the Rhone varieties, Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, and Roussanne, as well as the ancient white Cretan variety of Vidiano. Relying on organic farming practices, Manousakis, a family business, is all about offering Cretan terroir products and also produces olive oil, sea salt, and tsikoudia, a local spirit made of grapes. But one of the reasons why we love Manousakis, beyond their complex wines, is that they donate part of their proceeds to a local school that helps children with disabilities.
Covering over 30,000 square meters (7.4 acres) of land in Pontikiana, near Chania, Karavitakis Winery is run by a family who has been involved in olive oil production as well as winemaking for generations. In 1998, the winery introduced new local and international varieties and now features a varied collection of grapes, including Malagouzia, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc for white wines and Cabernet, Syrah, Kotsifali, Merlot and Tempranillo for reds. As each variety requires particular care, the winery follows a specific schedule for each type, allowing the grapes to mature properly in order to produce the best wines with a distinct je ne sais quoi that showcases the winery’s brand, which is that Cretan wines can compete with international labels. And you know what? They may be right.
Douloufakis Winery, established in 1930 by Dimitris Douloufakis, is a third-generation winery located in the outskirts of Dafnes, outside of Heraklion, at an elevation of 350 meters (1,148 feet). Awarded for the quality of its products at the 1952 International Trade Fair in Thessaloniki, the winery, which is now under the care of grandson Nikolas Douloufakis, an oenologist who studied in Italy, produces wine from indigenous and non-native varieties, including Vilana, Vidiano, Malvasia, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Liatiko, Kotsifali, Sangiovese and Syrah, among others. The convenient location near Heraklion makes it perfect for a wine tour during your holidays. You won’t regret it.
Part of the appellation zone of Peza, which is the largest wine-producing region, the Rhous estate lies in Houdetsi. The small winery, which relies mostly on organic practices, was established in that precise location according to the potential of the local ecosystem, including the altitude (500 meters [1,640 feet] high), the inclination of the slopes, the clayish soil rich in calcium, as well as the northern orientation—perfect conditions for the local Cretan grape varieties that the winery grows. Open to visitors year-round, Rhous enjoys a stunning scenery, complete with a rooftop offering panoramic views over the area.
With over 60 years of experience, the Lyrarakis Winery, set in the mountainous village of Alagni in the appellation area (AOC) of Peza, is one of the pioneers in winemaking in Crete. The winery focuses on reviving local grapes and cultivates the white varieties of Dafni and Plyto, as well as Vilana, White Muscat and Sauvignon Blanc. For the red wines, the local varieties of Kotsifali, Mandilari, and Black Muscat are complemented by Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, in turn, creating the excellent wines for which Lyrarakis Winery is so famous.
In the eastern part of Crete, on the Ziros plateau near Sitia, the winery Economou focuses on wines made from local grape varieties such as Vilana, Thrapsathiri, Mantilari and Liatiko, along with international ones such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay. The quality wines produced are the result of organic cultivation processes, in turn, giving them a distinct taste and making them a favorite for many. Belonging to Yiannis Economou, an oenologist extraordinaire who studied and worked in Italy, France and Germany, the winery is a perfect excuse to visit the region of Lasithi and taste some unique wines.
Idaia Winery, established in 1998, lies in Venerato, north of Heraklion. The privately owned winery produces quality wines made with Kotsifali, Mandilari, Liatiko, Sauvignon Blanc and Vilana grapes. Idaia wines are famous for their robust and flavorful character, so we highly recommend you give the label a try if you stumble upon a bottle and even visit the winery if you travel to Crete.
Established by Andreas Dourakis in 1988 after he studied winemaking in Germany, the Dourakis Winery lies in Alikampos, near Chania. Today, the second generation of the family have kept their father’s love for wine and added their passion for art, making it a spectacular place to come and taste wine and experience art through small exhibitions and art events. This family winery grows Cretan grape varieties following organic practices and produces delicious award-winning wines that cater to every taste. Don’t wait too long to book your tasting tour—you may get to visit a memorable art exhibition as well.