In the wineries of Crete, the tradition of winemaking is still handed down from generation to generation. With a history that spans more than 4000 years, Crete is one of the oldest wine-producing areas in Europe. Drinking, in general, is considered a social activity and often accompanies all main meals or gatherings with friends and family. A good glass of wine compliments the food it is served with and gathers people around the table for lively discussion and celebrations.
The best way to taste the local varieties is without a doubt to visit the wineries themselves. Both Chania, Rethymno and Heraklion are known for their winemaking, so while you can always try the local varieties with a meal in the taverna, it is best if you can drive to the source for a wine tasting and a guided tour of the area as well. Driving around the diverse Cretan terrain and getting to see the vineyards from up close, perched on the rugged mountainous hills, offers a much more holistic approach.
Most of the traditional Cretan varieties of grapes and wines have survived and now they are enjoying a revival while being enriched with other domestic and international varieties. That is not to say that new cultivation techniques and knowledge have been left behind. The modern winemakers, often younger people that have followed the family business, have completed studies in enology, viniculture, and food science and can adapt and apply this knowledge accordingly. Modern technology and tradition have been successfully married and contemporary wineries have pulled together to achieve a position of worth for the Cretan wines on both the domestic and international scenes. Cretan wine-making establishments – with their long winemaking traditions – are open to the public. You can tour the vineyards and cellars, whilst in the more modern set-ups, you can taste Cretan wines. They are almost always accompanied by appetizers from the famous Cretan cuisine.
Some local varieties of Cretan wine that you have to look forward to are Vilana, Vidiano, Dafni, Thrapsathiri, Malvasia di Candia, Muscat of Spina and Plyto, and for the reds, Malvasia, Kotsifali, Mandilari and Liatiko.
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