Rethymno is associated with two civilizations that have wine culture in their DNA, the Minoans and the Etruscans. The Minoans, who are said to have been responsible for the development of viticulture in Greece, were the first inhabitants of Rethymno, while the name Rethymno is a corruption of “Rithymna” that, according to many is Etrouscan. The latter’s contribution to the development of wine production in France has been crucial.
Topography and vineyards
Rethymno is situated between Chania and Heraklion. It’s a mountainous region with the Lefka Ori mountains at its west borders, and Psiloritis mountain at its east. The mountainous landscape offers slopes with limited fertility and a variety of orientations for viticulture. The climate is Mediterranean, and the summer months are warm and dry. However, the altitude benefits the plants, since, at night, the temperature drops. This temperature variation between night and day helps grapes ripen more slowly, developing a rich aromatic body and refreshing acidity. The majority of vineyards are located at altitudes over 600 m, however there are plantations at lower altitudes, where the more fertile clay soil helps the plants survive dryness and adds metallic notes to the wines of the local Vidiano variety.
Viticulture and winemaking started with the Minoans, the first inhabitants of the area. The arrival and settlement of Byzantine noblemen and, later, the Venetian rule for a period of over 450 years, essentially contributed to the development of wine culture. The decline of the Ottoman rule was followed by the arrival of a significant number of people from Asia Minor, as a result of the Treaty of Lausanne, something that breathed new life into the area. In the past, in the Rethymno region, like everywhere else in Crete, wine self-production experienced growth, which resulted in the creation of many small, family-run vineyards.
The Rethymno vineyard is smaller compared to the others on the island, but it has some characteristics that make it special. There are many old vines, many of which are in fact centenarian. The white variety Vidiano survived through those vineyards. Starting at the mountains of Rethymno, Vidiano has been established as one of the most important varieties not just of Crete but of Greece. It’s a variety resistant to disease that yields high quality wines that express with finesse the influence of oak, the buttery elements of malolactic fermentation and the greasy texture from the contact with the fine lees. Other varieties that grow in the region include the white Athiri, Vilana, Thrapsathiri, Moschato Spinas and the reds Liatiko, Romeiko, Kotsifali, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache Rouge and Syrah.
Geographical indication protection
Wines produced in the Rethymno region are entitled to Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) Rethymno status or the more general PGI Crete status. The latter is usually chosen when a proportion or all the grapes comes from neighbouring regions.
Wine tourism, gastronomy and culture
The city of Rethymno is built in the north of the region and the old Venetian port stands out for its beauty, offering the perfect setting for the picturesque restaurants and fish taverns that are almost on the sea. The region’s wineries are easily accessible from town and their wines combine perfectly with other ingredients of local gastronomy, the rich olive oil, the wild greens, the honey, the dairy products (feta graviera, mizithra, and stakovoutiro), the mutton and goat meat, and the fish and seafood. Rethymno’s attractions include the beautiful beaches of Bali and Preveli, the Sfendoni cave and Anogia, probably the most famous village in Crete.
The winery was established in 2017 by Xenia Kourkoulou and her siblings, Zacharenia and Pavlos, at the foothills of Psiloritis, next to the gorge of Agios Antonios. The estate produces 15,000 bottles of Cretan varieties that are sourced from their own organic vineyard, while a small proportion comes from collaborating viticulturists. Katerina Karampatea is the chemist-oenologist in charge. From their labels, “Pentozali white” that combines Vilana, Vidiano and Moschato Spinas, stands out for its rich fruity aromas, that goes perfectly with seafood or casserole dishes. “Pentozali Rose” is 100% Liatiko, with a light colour, the perfect wine to go with local delicacies. Finally, the single variety Vidiano is an elegant, balanced, typical Vidiano from the estate’s vineyard, located at 360 m. The winery is open to the public, but it’s best to book in advance. Tours are given in Greek or English.
Address: Patsos, Amario, Rethymno
Tel.: +30 694 8099169
This is a family-run business founded in 1997 by chemist-oenologist Emaouil Klados. In 2000, the winery’s team began an effort to promote the local Vidiano variety, and since 2003 it has been organically growing the variety. Today, the second generation is in charge. Stelios is a chemist with postgraduate studies in Greece and in Italy. The label “White Diva” is 100% Vidiano with lime, green apple and peach aromas, and a creamy texture. The “Great Hawk” combines Moschato Spinas and Vidiano, creating a wine with fresh acidity and flowery and fruity aromas. “Pink Blackbird” is a fruity rose of the Kotsifali variety. It goes well with Cretan food and local cheese. The winery is open to the public from early April until the end of October daily between 10.00-18.00 and on Saturdays between 10.00-15.00. The rest of the year, you can arrange a visit by appointment. The tours are given in Greek, English, Italian and German.
Address: Skepasti Milopotamou, 74057, Rethymno, Crete
Tel.: +30 2834051589 & +30 6973654840
Iliana Malihin winery
The winery was established in 2019 and Iliana, a fan of organic farming, is trying to promote and preserve old vineyards in the villages of the Rethymno region. The grapes come from the mountainous villages Melabes, Fourfoura and Merona. The winery’s flagship is “Vidiano old vine” a greasy wine with aromas of ripe apricot, honey and chamomile from old vines at the village Melabes, at 800 m altitude. It is great with grilled fish and white sauces. “Vidiano young vines” is more playful, bringing forth aromas of stone fruit and fresh acidities, that go well with seafood and green salads. “Liatiko” is from Merona and is a food wine that combines the aromas of ripe fruit and earthy, spicy hints., from early May until the end of October, daily, including Saturday, from 10.00 till 17.00. Tours are available in Greek, English and German.
The winery is open to the public, upon arrangement
Address: Melabes, Rethymno, Crete
In 1927, a 160,000 m² mountainous area, called “Armi tis Gouvas” came into the hands of the Em. Metaxakis family and was renamed “Lagara”. In 1993, Giannis Metaxakis built the first winery there. In 2017, the winery was modernized and a beautiful space for visitors was created. Today, the family farms 77,000 m² with vines and olive trees. The winery makes the wine “KORFI” in three versions, white, rose and red. The white has citrus and stone-fruit aromas and goes well with refreshing salads, seafood and white sauces. The rose, with rose and red fruit aromas, is perfect for cheese and fruit plateaus, while the red has black and red fruit aromas combined with vanilla and smoke hints from the oak barrels. The winery is open to visitors. In the summer it’s open between 10.00 and 18,00, while booking in advance is preferred, especially if you’d like to visit outside opening hours. In the winter, visits are only done with prior arrangements. Tours are given in Greek, English and German..
Address: Orthes Milopotamou, Rethymno, Crete
Tel.: +30 2834022228, +30 6978001898
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org & email@example.com
The wines of Greece –Drama: Τhe climate, the wineries, the varieties, the labels