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Ancient land now turns to modern wines

The wine region of Heraklion

One of the oldest (Minoan) wine presses in the world can be found in Vathypetro, a few kilometers south of the village of Archanes in the heart of the wine region of Heraklion. I’ve come here several times now. I suggest you stop by Bakaliko for a bite to eat, and a conversation with Agnes, Suzsana or George. And, try a bottle of wine. They have a terrific selection. I’ll tell you their story another time. Worth it.

The wine region of Heraklion is the second largest wine district of Greece, and Crete produces just about 20% of the Greek wine. It’s also one of the first wine production centres in history. So, why aren’t there more wines from Crete available in Canada? A region where winemaking history can be traced back to at least 5000 years.

Well, for one, Crete was associated with bulk-wine production through cooperatives for a long time. More recently, independent producers inspired by their training in France, Italy and California, have pursued bottling and the industry has modernized  itself. Just over 30 producers now comprise the “Wines of Crete” region. Once almost extinct indigenous grape varieties have been nurtured and are now regaining their rightful place in Crete and abroad.

Ancient land now turns to modern wines

With 7 PDO (Protected Designated Origin) zones in Crete (five alone in the Heraklion region), the main local grape varieties are Vilana, Vidiano and Plyto for whites, and Kotsifali, Mandilari and Liatiko for reds. Viticulture conditions are ideal due to the climate, topography and soil composition, which is mostly clay and limestone.

I’ve met about a dozen winemakers. The one common thread is their passion for native varieties. Zacharias (Diamantakis) will rave about the potential for Vidiano (aging potential in barrels), while Stelios (Zacharioudakis) pursues an organic approach with Kotsifali in both dry and sweet wines. Another experiments with Romeiko, a variety common in the Chania region. These are winemakers that are progressive.

This ancient land now turns to modern wines placing native indigenous varieties at the heart of its evolution. Making the noble grapes relevant again, better than ever, ready to make their mark from the place where it all started.


By Patrick Hadsipantelis

Tags: Crete. News. Wines.

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