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Discovering Crete

Crete is the largest island in Greece and is also the second largest wine producing region in the country. There are over 60 wineries and the majority of them are practicing organic farming and biodynamic production. In the last twenty years, there has been an abundance of discovering thought to be extinct grape varieties that farmers and viti-culturists are bringing back to life. The revitalization of Crete’s wine industry is thriving and progressing immensely.

Crete lies in the heart of the Eastern Mediterranean. Its climate is typically Mediterranean, though not everywhere. Large altitude differences, the steep gradients of the Cretan mountains and the fragmented relief create a mosaic of local microclimates. The island’s orientation, its oblong shape, its high mountains and the fact that it is surrounded by the sea, exposed to strong winds, blowing all year round from every direction, all have a decisive impact on local microclimates. These various microclimates allow the indigenous grape varieties to perform well in those specific areas. And because of these microclimates most wineries are practicing dry farming and the remaining require very little irrigation.

Crete is like a wine ark carrying marvelous indigenous varieties as well as foreign ones which have adapted very well to the local terrain with very positive results. Local white varieties include Vilana, one of the island’s top white wine grapes, Vidiano, Dafni, Thrapsathiri, Malvazia di Candia (Malvazia of Chandakas), Muscat of Spina, and Plyto. Red varieties include Kotsifali, Mantilari, Liatiko, Tsardana and legendary Romeiko. Cretan varietals and blends made of local and foreign varieties (mostly French) are PGI Crete labels.

Cretan vineyards cover 12.8% of Greece’s wine regions and hold the 3rd place among the 9 viticultural areas in the country. The Geographical Indications for Cretan wines are as follows:

PDO Sitia, PDO Malvasia Sitia – Lasithi
PDO Peza – Heraklion
PDO Archanes – Heraklion
PDO Dafnes – Heraklion
PDO Handakas-Candia & Malvasia Handakas-Candia – Heraklion

Here are some selections of wines from Crete that you can explore and have them delivered right to your door.

MRS. Red Blend by Manousakis Winery

Douloufakis Liatiko

Douloufakis Vidiano Dafnios

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Greece is More Than Sparkling Seas

When we think of Greece, we think of sparkling blue waters and sun drenched beaches.  But when we think of sparkling wine, we never think of Greece, until recently.  I felt the timing was appropriate to write a piece about the new movement in sparkling wines in Greece as we approach the end of the year.  By default we gravitate to Champagne and Prosecco as the standard options for quality, but in the last ten years, Greece has been producing bubbles that will match up with any production.

Typically, sparkling wines can be produced from both white and red grapes.  When using red grapes for the production of sparkling wines, the skins are removed prior to fermentation.  Greece has so many versatile and diverse indigeneous grapes, that they can produce refreshing and crisp sparkling wines.  Greece’s transformation into producing high quality sparkling wines are a result of skillful and progressive winemakers such as Stelios Boutaris of Kir Yianni Estates and Yiannis Tselepos of Domaine Tselepos to name a few.  Stelios is using his estate grown red grape, Xinomavro to produce an amazing rosè sparkler called Akakies and Yiannis is using his estate grown white grape, Moschofilero to produce his refreshing sparkler called Amalia.  Both exceptional examples of well crafted and produced sparkling wines.  

Finally, sparkling wines have made their way to the table to pair with foods and not just be offered as a selection for toasting.  The structure of sparkling wines and the cuisine of many Greek dishes that incorporate olive oil, lemon, herbs, and spices make an amazing pairing.  

I highly recommend trying a few and your palate will thank you.  Stin Ygeia Sas! 

Fun Facts:
On a sparkling wine bottle if you see the terms:

– Blanc de Blanc – the wine was produced from 100% white grapes
– Blanc de Noir – the wine was produced with both white and red grapes

Get a bottle of Kir Yianni Akakies Rosé