Wine is on Cretans’ everyday tables, it takes part in celebrations and it’s surrounded by myth. Thanks to the efforts of a handful of trailblazing producers, it is also beginning to gain due recognition in the international wine scene. Meet the rising stars of these superb wineries in Chania.
Spanning 5.000 years of history, wine is embedded in Cretans’ lives: As an accompaniment to meals, as a welcome to friends and strangers, as a mirth-inducing toast at weddings and christenings, but also as a natural remedy for the ailments of the body, heart and spirit. And while through the centuries wine has never left the locals’ table, until recently little effort was spared to keep up with developments in techniques and presentation. With the arrival of mass tourism in the ’70s, several Cretan winemakers started using foreign, popular varieties in an attempt to please the holidaymakers – alas with dubious results. Crete became a powerhouse producer of (largely bulk) wines but serious wine production and promotion were shelved.
Hailing from Minoan times, Cretan wines had once conquered the world via trade with the Egyptians, and then the Romans, the Venetians and beyond; but in the modern world were failing to reclaim their position.
Things have been steadfastly changing since the early 2000s, as local producers started to understand that indigenous varieties – some hailing from ancient and medieval times – were well worth the try. Their efforts coincided with a new trend in travel towards more authentic, localized experiences. Today Cretan wines are getting their groove back. Driven by passion and commitment to upping the ante, a new generation of winemakers is leading this renaissance. Making good use of traditional vine varieties, age-old experience and advanced, contemporary know-how, they create gems from local grapes worthy of worldwide acclaim. Taste some of the best in these awesome wineries in Chania.
Meet the modern face of Cretan wine in the acclaimed wineries in Chania
If you are looking to get acquainted with Crete’s two most famous products – olive oil and wine – in one visit, Anoskeli is your go-to place.
Many years ago the Mamidakis family built an olive mill in their birthplace in Kissamos with the purpose of processing their harvest. What started as a family tradition grew into an internationally awarded olive oil brand under the name of Anoskeli. Building on their success, they later on expanded into viticulture in their privately owned groves. Set in the homonymous tiny village, among luscious vineyards and orchards, this boutique winery in Chania yields high-quality wines in small quantities.
The whites all come from Greek and Cretan varieties with Vilana, Vidiano, and Assyrtiko grapes, while the reds include international favourites like Syrah, Grenache, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Anoskeli also produces a premium prized tsikoudia (or raki) – the local fiery spirit, which owes its smooth and rounded taste to its double distillation. Of course, Anoskeli is also offering its trademark version of Crete’s liquid gold – the extra virgin olive oil.
More info: +30 28240 83127, www.anoskeli.gr
Located in Pontikiana, in the area of Kolymvari, Karavitakis is one of the oldest and most successful Cretan wineries in Chania. With Nikos Karavitakis, a third-generation winemaker, at the helm, the bar is set even higher. Until recently the winery used to produce premium wines out of mostly international varieties and a few local wines as blends. This thought has shifted, with indigenous Cretan wines these days constituting 80% of the production. The winery has also grown – its yearly capacity is now about 225.000 bottles – but has never lost its sustainability focus. The vineyards are cultivated organically, without the use of pesticides, while all viticultural work, from pruning and leafing to harvesting, is done by hand.
Set among vineyards and olive groves, this thoroughly modern winery is open all year round. Tours are offered daily – and range from simple wine tastings to more detailed ones, paired with food. There is also a quaint little church, on-site, dedicated to Agios Tryphon, patron saint of vine growers.
More info: +30 28240 23381, www.karavitakiswines.com
Located in the village of Vatolakkos, a mere 15-minute drive from Chania Town, this winery’s pedigree has always been impeccable. Manousakis has been producing its own premium organic wine under the brand name Nostos since 1997. Yet while the focus in the 90s was on Rhône varieties, in recent years, the emphasis has shifted with local varieties like Romeiko, Muscat of Spina and Assyrtiko, nowadays taking centre stage.
With a strong environmental ethos, wine production at Manousakis – one of the most famous wineries in Chania – does not interfere with nature; rather it works with nature, and this is evident in every stage: From manual harvesting to planting vegetables to augment the nutrients in the soil.
With Alexandra Manousakis and her husband Afshin Molavi, in charge, this boutique establishment is offering tours and tastings amid a most idyllic setting: Surrounded by citrus trees and olive groves with Cretan mountains on the backdrop.
More info: +30 28210 78787, www.manousakiswinery.com