Wines of Crete
A Gift from the Earth
There’s nothing more enjoyable, rewarding and beautiful than a glass of good wine shared with friends. We experienced it on a day visiting a family run winery in Peza, near Heraklion, the capital of Crete.
Crete is home to one of the largest vineyards in Greece, Cretan vines have a long continuous presence in Europe. Being a core part of everyday life for Cretans, we find wine on the everyday table, in religious feasts as well as in folk and myth. Nikos Gavalas and his family received us in the village of Vorias to show us their wine-making process, taste some award-winning wines he produces and enjoy a day highlighted by top flavors.
A millennial tradition
Archaeological findings have proven that ever since Minoan times, Crete never ceased to produce wine. The history of wine on the island has very deep roots, archaeologist discovered traces of the Minoan flourishing economy and their staple products were olive oil, cereals and wine.
Wine remains a family business, it’s always been so. Not long ago most wine came from domestic vinification, a widespread tradition mainly for private consumption.
Different conditions lead to a change, and a new generation of Cretan wine makers have worked hard for the rebirth of local production, however, their still honor that family tradition. An effort soon rewarded by international recognition, medals and satisfaction. They’re doing a superb job, impressive wines are now a distinctive part of the prestigious Cretan cuisine.
New varieties, aromas and flavors are emerging, satisfying every taste and need. Making good use of traditional varieties and experience, modern wine producers in Crete have managed to elevate Cretan wine to its rightful position.
A real evolution of local wines was the result of quality improvements. But tradition is not enough.
Minas Tsoulfas, who helps Nikos in the management of the domaine, tells us that a renewed use of traditional varieties has put local wine in its deserved place within the international market.
Certain Cretan wines were already quite famous, as Malvasia. Even today, traditional Cretan wines, like Marouvas or the sweet wine from Muscat of Spina, are still popular.
To that tradition raki adds to the list with its surrounding ritualism.
Biological and Natural
In 340 hectares Gavalas cultivate Vidiano, Vilana, two white autochthonous varieties, as well as Moscato, Malvasia Aromatica, Chardonnay and Sauvignon. Among the red varieties, local Kotsifali, Mandilari, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. All these turn into about 300.000 bottles a year of 11 different labels.
Nikos Gavalas takes extreme care of his wine. In 2001 his vineyards became part of the organic cultivation system. “Organic products protect the environment from pesticides’ contamination as well as the consumers and us, the cultivators and our children“, he says. A key reason for their success. Not only their labels taste amazing, their grapes too.
In 2004, Gavalas set up a modern winery into the vineyards; besides, having their cultivated land so close to the winery allows them to control the quality of the grapes, further enhancing the product.
At lunch with friends
After a visit to the factory and cellars, we walked among the vines, tasted some grapes and took delight savouring their labels.
A warm household spirit is very much alive, our kids spent a fantastic time with Niko’s wife helping her in the kitchen (only God knows in which language!!!) to prepare an excellent lunch! An authentic Cretan table with traditional dishes for special occasions. A taste of Cretan hospitality that proved – again – that unique Greek spirit of receiving friends.
Fantastic home-made dishes, grapes and cheese with an endless choice of their wines. As wine should be tasted… with friends, among chat, pairing it with great delicacies.
We were lucky to taste a new label about to be launched, Speedy Wine, a fresh new red that will undoubtedly be the reason of more satisfaction to Gavalas. As far as whites, their Frangospito is a star. A dry pleasant wine, with an aromatic, intense bouquet of jasmine, lemon blossom and melon. One of the best whites I’ve tasted in a long time.
Another excellent label is Efivos, a red and fresh surprise.
Vorias, God of the Northern Winds
The domain is the PDO of Peza, in the small village of Vorias. Vorias plays an important role in wine production for Gavalas. The village, in fact, takes its name after Boreas (Tramontana), a fierce wind from the north which receives a famous name during summer: Meltemi… Those who really love the Greek islands know that Meltemi is far more than the nuisance tourists believe it is. Meltemi is a blessing bringing relief to the hot Mediterranean summer.
Visit the Domaine
Nikos Gavalas and his family are the perfect example of Cretan hospitality. Their wines have earned a well-deserved recognition that will definitely keep growing.
You can visit the winery or you can take advantage of OiNotika 2016, the Cretan Wine Fair this weekend in Athens. A perfect opportunity to combine Gavalas’ labels with a selection of local wines that are putting Crete back on the map of prestige, taste and quality.
The network of Cretan Wine Producers, Wines of Crete. Thanks to Stella, from Wines of Crete, Nikos Gavalas and his family and Minas Tsoulfas, for making this day possible!
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