Travel Guide to Crete Wine Region

The southern edge of the Aegean Sea has the most famous and largest island of Greece, Crete (Kriti). The history of wine here dates to 5 000 BCE, with the Minoans of Ancient Crete – thought to be among the first civilizations in Europe. Archeological digs throughout the Mediterranean discovered amphorae bearing Cretan insignias, a mark of the Greek wine greatness. In the Middle Ages, the famous Malvasia sweet wines were shipped from Crete all over Europe, to the most important centers of the time. With an illustrious past, the modern Crete wine region from today is still thriving. 


Find out about Wine tasting and Tours in Crete to enjoy if you visit the region.

We prepared travel guide to Crete Wine Region, where you will discover more, not only about the Cretan wines, but also about the local unique gastronomy as well as the cultural and natural places to visit. Follow the guide to learn more about:

Wine region of Crete

Wineries to visit

Must-visit cultural and natural sites

Cretan Cuisine

Crete Island, Greece

Discover the Ancient Crete Wine Region

One of the cradles of wine history, Crete is the oldest wine-producing area in continuous use in Europe. This ancient culture also holds the oldest wine press in the continent, a relic of more than 3500 years, discovered in Vathypetro, a place around 20 km from Iráklion.

The Crete wine region is made not only of history. Nearly 8 000 hectares under vine represent 11,9% of the country’s current wine production. The past decades transformed the wines of Crete, an outcome of a new approach in the vineyards. The emerging of a new generation of winemakers brought up new techniques from overseas, growing the unique indigenous grapes among classical varieties in inventive ways.

The combination of particular varieties placed in a unique terroir results in original flavor and perfume to Crete wines. Indigenous red varieties as Liatiko, Mandilaria, Kotsifali, and Tsardana blended with classical Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah create an authentic style in the bottles.

This distinct terroir of Crete is a result of calcisol soils in mountain ranges and characteristic Mediterranean climate:

  • Limestone lands range from denser clay to sandy loam, allowing the vine roots to grow deep, reaching water and mineral resources in depth;
  • The suitable weather provides hot and sunny summers and mild, rainy winters. The north of Africa provides hot winds while the Aegean Sea in the north cooling breezes.
Cretan rural landscape with vineyards and olive groves

The Sub-Regions of Crete

The sub-regions of Arhane, Peze, Dafnes, and Sitia form the Crete wine region.

The subregion of Arhanes (Archanes) is also an appellation of the Crete wine region. A particularity here is Kotsifali, a grape variety under vine only in Arhanes and in Peza, it’s neighbor.

The most productive subregion is Peza, producing around 70% of wines in Crete. The appellation permits both white and red grapes to be cultivated, likewise in Sitia.

Dafnes is a subregion where the appellation permits only Liatiko grape varieties. Despite that, various other grapes are under vine here.

Grape Varieties:

     Red: Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Liatiko, Mandilaria, Kotsifali, Mantilari, Tsardana, and Romeiko

     White: Sauvignon Blanc, Vilana, Athiri, Vidiano, Dafni, Thrapsathiri, Malvazia di Candia (Malvazia of Chandakas), Muscat of Spina, and Plyto

Wines of Crete

The wines of Crete are distinct, especially regarding indigenous grapes. The blending from Mandilaria and Liatiko creates red wines of aromatic delight. Even though the Liatiko has a dark-skin berry, it is hard to extract and maintain its color. When riped in sun-dried conditions, Liatiko wines produce sweet aromas of raisin and dried fruits.

Another usual blend of red wines found in the Crete wine region is Kotsifali and Mandilaria. The Mandilaria variety has grapes with thick skins full of polyphenols.

The white grapes Vilana and Athiri intertwine a light, delicate scent to the mouth and nose. The blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Vilana makes interesting fresh wines. Alone, the outstanding Vilana, present in PDO Sitia and Peza at Crete wine region, creates moderate deep yellow wines. The notes of orange, lemon, jasmine, and herbs make pleasant perfumes. Fresh to the palate, Vilana wines are light in body with soft acidity.


Wineries to Visit in Crete Wine Region

Dourakis Winery

dourakis winery winemakers family near winery in lovely greece

Dourakis family-owned boutique Winery uses traditional methods of viticulture to cultivate a wide range of grapes since 1980s and host visitors since 1988 from all over the world.

Winery is located in the breathtaking village of Alikampos, just short drive away from the winegrowing regions of Rethymno and Chania.

The winery hosts many different culinary events, art exhibitions, presentations and much more. Be the guest of Dourakis family and try their unique food and wine pairings.

Domaine Paterainakis

Wine Tasting At Domaine Paterainakis Winery

Woman-run winery, located in the mainland of Crete offers organic wines produced by females of the Paterianakis family.
The family has preserved rare native grape verities and followed biodynamic practice of winemaking with the respect of biodiversity.

Here, you can taste several different organic wines paired with local dishes and extra virgin olive oil that is also produces by the estate.

Read more about Wineries in Crete to visit.


Must-Visit Places in Crete

Knossos Minoan Palace – Land of Mystical Fables

Knossos is the oldest city in Europe and is considered the most important center of the Minoan culture. Surrounded by olive, vine, and cypress trees, the Minoan Palace had over 1 200 rooms, where once was a place for ceremonies and a political hub. This palace links interesting myths such as Daedalus with Icarus and the labyrinth with the Minotaur. Build probably in 2 000 BCE, this incredible place suffered from an earthquake and possibly the Santorini eruption. Nowadays, the remains still portray the ancient Minoan culture.

Knossos palace at Crete, the ceremonial and political centre of the Minoan civilization and culture
Spinalonga – Ruins of a Ghost Island

Located in north-eastern Crete, the island of Spinalonga is a remote Greek attraction. Ruled by different powers in the past, its surroundings were a salt extraction during the Venetian rule. In the 20th-century, this rocky island was a leper colony. Spinalonga became a ghost town, appearing in sorts of movies and being a destination for curious tourists.  

Heraklion Archaeological Museum – Explore the Ancient Greek History

The history of Crete island is long and diverse, well depicted in The Heraklion Archaeological Museum. Here is a set of artifacts and utensils of the ancient civilizations of the island. This museum was build where once was the Venetian Franciscan friary, which collapsed in the 1856’s earthquake. The tourists can hear detailed explanations and excellent presentation on guided tours.

Hidden Gem of Crete – Vai is a palm beach and an incredible spot in the Mediterranean, located 26 km from Sitia town. Surrounded by the largest natural palm forest on the continent, the beach was closed for recovery after nature degradation by untidy visits. Old tales suggest that Arab ships docked in this site, leaving palm seed behind, which created the magnificent forest. Nowadays, the calm blue waters provide a relaxing time and entertainment in sea activities.


The Must-See Natural Wonders of Crete

The rocky mountains of this island create a stunning view for nature exploration. The Crete wine region is full of vineyards, olive and cypress trees, a charming landscape.

Samariá Gorge – Stunning Scenery Waiting for You

The Samariá Gorge is a national park and a World’s Biosphere Reserve of the Greek island of Crete. The stunning look attracts tourists from all over the world to unforgettable adventures. The 15 km downhill hiking offers stunning views arriving on a beautiful beach. The amusement may increase when finding goats along the hills, a truly Greek experience.

Elafonissi lagoon

Enjoy a relaxing time in clear waters and white sand

Located near Chania (approximately 70 km away), Elafonissi lagoon can be a piece of paradise. The crystal clear water seems to be from a pool, as the white sand has an interesting light pink tone. A great experience here is snorkeling, diving in the translucent water to discover diverse sea life.

Elafonissi beach with pink sand on Crete Island, Greece
Psychro Cave – Where Nature and Mythology Meet

The Psychro Cave is an ancient Minoan sacred cave located in the eastern part of Crete. Also known as the Diktean Cave, this site is reputed to be one possible place of Zeus’ birth and became a worship site in Minoan Crete. The millenary history around it creates a mythological atmosphere for visitors. 


Discover the Cretan Gastronomy

Greek cuisine is renowned for having tasty and healthy plates. The wines of Crete can harmonize its culinary in unforgettable experiences. Don’t forget to look for these dishes:

Staka Me Ayga – The Perfect Start of the Day

This simple and delicious meal consists of poached or fried eggs combined with staka, a buttery cream mixed with flour. Usually seasoned with pepper and salt, this dish is a perfect warm meal for breakfast. It is common to eat it whit apaki, a kind of Cretan smoked pork.

Gamopilafo – A Tradition in the Cretan Weddings

Gamopilafo is a traditional Cretan recipe that stands for “rice of the wedding”. This risotto-like dish consists of a mix of different meats, like goat, turkey, and rooster with rice. The rice is cooked separately from the meat, adding the broth, lemon, and butter to enhance its flavor. When serving, the rice is covered with a slice of meat, accompanied by lemon wedges.

Zoumero – Mouth-Watering Dessert

Nothing better than a slice of a delicious cake to complete the day. Zoumero is a Cretan moist chocolate cake made with simple ingredients: flour, baking powder, eggs, vanilla, and cocoa powder. After baked, a cold syrup topping made of milk, sugar, butter, and cocoa covers the cake, making it a moist chocolate desert.


Share about Crete Wine Region:

Region Highlights

Surface: 7185
Wineries: 45
Soil: Calcisol, limestone formed by calcium carbonate layers
Climate: Characteristic Mediterranean climate, with hot, sunny summers and mild, rainy winters

Selected wineries in Crete

Daskalaki Irini Silva Wines
Producing Enstikto red wine that won the Grand Gold medal in 2008
Domaine Paterainakis
Domaine Paterianakis is the First Winery in Crete Producing High-End Organic Greek Wines
Dourakis Winery
A winery that boasts the production of 200,000 bottles of wine yearly.
Idaia Winery
Witness the wine cellar that produces 60,000 liters of wines every year.

Wine tastings & tours in Crete

Advanced Wine tasting and tour at Lyrarakis winery
Enjoy a regional picnic and taste varieties of wines of Lyrarakis winery
Wine Tasting and Tour at Daskalaki Irini Silva Wines
Indulge your senses in an unforgettable Wine Tasting & Tour, paired with the tour of the winery at Daskalaki Irini Silva Wines
Wine tasting and tour at Domaine Paterainakis
Indulge Yourself in a Mesmerizing Wine Tasting Together with a Vineyard Visit
Wine Tasting and Tour at Dourakis Winery
A luxurious one-day immersion in the vineyards and wine cellar, paired with Wine Tasting & Tour at Dourakis Winery

Other Wine Regions in Greece

Aegean Islands
You can experience amazing wine tasting and tour activities at the various wineries in Aegean Islands . On our site you can read all about this regions to be prepared for your stay.
Central Greece
On our website, book visits to beautiful wineries in Central Greece and enjoy guided wine tasting and tour.
Epirus
You can experience amazing wine tasting and tour activities at the various wineries in Epirus . On our site you can read all about this regions to be prepared for your stay.
Ionian Islands
There are a big number of wineries in Ionian Islands with wine tasting and tour activities that you can book easily via winetourism.com.

Map of Wineries in Crete wine region

Discover the long wine tradition of Crete and discover some of the best wineries in this region

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List of Wineries in Crete wine region

Daskalaki Irini Silva Wines