Cretan Wines: A 4000-Year-Old Wine Making Tradition

Cretan wines

What makes Cretan wines so special? The mild Mediterranean climate is ideal for the cultivation of grapes and the fertile soil in Crete produces wines of superb quality and distinctive aromas.

Crete is a prominent wine making area in Greece, providing all regions of the country with wines from grape varieties that are cultivated only in Crete.

Greece is one of the oldest wine producing countries in the world. The island of Crete, situated at the southernmost area of Greece, has always been a major player in wine production.

Crete actually boasts a wine making tradition that is 4000 years old. Have a closer look at the long wine making tradition in Crete throughout the ages. But what particular types of wine can be found in Crete? Read everything you need to know and get ready for the best wine tasting experiences.

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“The fertile soil of Crete produces wines of superb quality and distinctive aromas.”

Cretan cheese and Cretan wine pairings


More than 15 different types of Cretan cheeses can be found on the island today. In Rethymno, which has the longest tradition in cheesemaking, most of the running dairies are located in the area between Mylopotamos and Amari. Cheese is basically made in Crete from sheep or goat milk.

Three Cretan cheeses are listed among the best regional products worldwide according to World Atlas Taste: Xinomizithra (a creamy cheese with a particular sour flavor), graviera cheese (a cheese of hard texture with a savory flavor) and anthotyro cheese (a soft white cheese rich in flavor).

Taste Atlas is an encyclopaedia of gastronomic experiences, in which travelers from all around the world share their impressions through their exciting adventures.

An aged graviera cheese with its strong savory flavor pairs perfectly with a red dry Cretan wine like kotsifali or liatiko. When used in food, graviera melts nicely because it’s a fatty Cretan cheese and that balances out the strength of red dry wine.

Hard anthotyro cheese and kefalotyri cheese are regularly used as table cheeses. Their rich and savory flavors beg for a glass of strong red dry Cretan wine.

A Cretan cheese of delicate mild flavor and soft texture, like fresh mizithra cheese or galomizithra cheese, pairs excellently with a white Cretan wine. Vidiano grape variety or thrapsathiri with their fruity aromas are the perfect match.

Staka is a unique kind of Cretan cheese with a buttery texture and rich flavor. It’s a particularly fatty cream cheese and it’s typically served on top of fried eggs. A rosé Cretan wine from the liatiko grape variety supplements this kind of meal wonderfully, especially when served with Cretan apaki (smoked pork meat).

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“The red dry liatiko wine is a perfect table wine.”



Cretan wine varieties


Crete is the biggest and southernmost Greek island. Discover wines of protected geographical indication (PGI) in the four districts of the island: Lasithi, Rethymno, Heraklion and Chania. The mild Mediterranean climate is ideal for the cultivation of Cretan grapes in vineyards.

White wines with their delicate fruity aromas from the grape varieties of Vilana, Thrapsathiri, Vidiano, Dafni, Plyto, Malvasia di Candia and Muscat of Spina. Also lively red wines rich in aromas: “Romeiko”, “Liatiko”, “Kotsifali” and “Mandilari”. The “Romeiko” grape variety gives the traditional Cretan red wine called “Marouvas”, with its deep ruby color and distinctive sweet flavor.

Sitia at the easternmost side of Crete (Lasithi region) plays a distinctive role in the production of wines of protected geographical indication (PGI). The “Liatiko” grape variety is the most representative one cultivated in the vineyards of Sitia. This grape variety gives two types of red wine, dry or sweet.

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“Liatiko” is a particularly aromatic wine with a flavor laced with ripe fruit and spices. The red dry “Liatiko” wine is a perfect table wine. The sweet one is ideal when concluding your meal with a nice dessert, especially a chocolate-based one.

The “Vidiano” wine variety is an aged type of white wine and the region of Rethymno is the king of this special and aromatic Cretan wine. The fresh flavor and the fruity aromas of the “Vidiano” make this a wine of distinctive character. “Vidiano” has been established as one of the most important varieties not just of Crete but of Greece.

“Vidiano” is a refreshing delicate wine that perfectly accompanies seafood, grilled fish, green salads, white sauces and cream desserts. “Vidiano” could be called the flagship grape variety of Crete.


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“Bread, cheese and Cretan wines are all part of a typical Cretan meal.”


Cretan food and wine pairings


A proper platter with Cretan wine bite-size snacks includes a selection of Cretan cheeses and Cretan apaki (smoked pork meat), Cretan rusk and grapes or figs (fresh or dried). The savory flavor of the cheese pairs so well with the sweetness of the fruits.

Adding some Cretan honey on top of the cheese is a favorite food combination in Crete. Also, grape syrup (petimezi) with its distinctive sweet flavor on top of graviera cheese is a tasty pairing. A selection of Cretan rusks, especially the Cretan carob rusk, is a perfect addition to a complete platter of wine pairings.

What could be more enjoyable than pairing cheese with wine? In Crete, you will definitely get to have unique food experiences. Visit the best wine producers in the regions of Rethymno and Lasithi in order to enjoy wine tasting sessions and try Cretan cheese varieties. Also, discover the best locations to taste Cretan cheese delicacies and local wine varieties of excellent quality.

Local people in Crete love drinking wine and eating cheese on a daily basis. They always like to pair their food with cheese, most of the time mizithra or anthotyro cheese and they also prefer to accompany food with a glass of good Cretan wine. Bread, cheese and wine are all part of a typical Cretan meal.

Find here more about the flagship dishes of the traditional Cretan cuisine and the tasty food pairings in Crete!

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“Crete is a perfect destination for wine tasting.”



A perfect destination for wine tasting

Wine accompanies the joys of life, and Cretans are active participants in feasts around the products made from grapes. Wine production in Crete has a long tradition and in recent years more wineries opened their doors to visitors.

There, you will have the opportunity to enjoy wine tasting experiences in the vineyards where grapes are cultivated and grown or inside the cellars where wines mature. And that will help you better understand Cretan wines, while bringing you closer to the local winemakers.

There are 11 indigenous grape varieties in Crete waiting for the wine-loving public for wine tasting and wine talks. And more than 300 labels from Cretan and international grape varieties.

Get to know the winemakers behind the labels and meet the people behind the finest Cretan products by choosing one of the self-guided tour itineraries created by Taste the local Crete.

Or let’s create your customized food itinerary together! Have access to unique wine and food experiences including cooking lessons, wine & food pairings, private dinners and special local food and wine festivals.