Eleven distinctive and diverse grape varieties play a large role in shaping the wines of Crete, Greece’s largest island. These grapes are grown at altitudes ranging from sea level to more than 3,000 feet, and in soils that include limestone, slate, calcium clay and red earth. The island’s annual 46,200-ton bounty is grown under the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) Crete designation.
Crete’s wine regions, further classified into Protected Designations of Origin (PDOs), are Archanes, Chandakis, Dafnes, Malvasia Chandakis-Candia, Malvasia Sitia, Peza and Sitia.
White Wine Grapes of Crete
A rich, rare and ancient variety, Dafni offers flavors of lemon, bay leaf, tea, rosemary and lemon verbena.
Malvasia di Candia
A clone of aromatic Malvasia, Malvasia di Candia offers fragrant jasmine, pear and peach on the nose, as well as flavors of apple, pear and spice. It’s excellent in both sweet and dry styles.
Muscat of Spina
This clone of Muscat starts with aromas of orange blossom and jasmine, followed by flavors of lime, chamomile and lemon.
Recently saved from extinction, Plyto is typified by refreshing acidity, citrus aromas and flavors of melon, pineapple and pear.
A lively, medium-bodied wine, Thrapsathiri is known for flavors of melon, peach, lemon peel, apple and pear.
Vidiano is a widely planted white variety that offers a rich array of flavors like apricot, lime and pear to go with aromas of chamomile and jasmine. Backed by a brisk minerality, it’s balanced and full of finesse.
Tropical fruit, thyme, lemon and orange flavors are predominant in this medium-bodied white.
Red Wine Grapes of Crete
Full of plum and sour cherry aromas, the fleshy Kotsifali is sometimes compared to Merlot. A deft blending grape, it has medium acidity and raspberry, plum and cherry flavors.
Versatile and excellent in both sweet and dry styles, Liatiko is known for leather and fig aromas, and flavors of strawberry, raspberry and plum.
Earthy and full of indigenous character, Mandilari is a full-bodied red that offers plum, anise and fig flavors with a backbone of leather and high acidity.
Medium-bodied and full of blueberry, wild cherry and clove flavors and aromas, Romeiko is being revived in single-varietal bottlings and sparkling wines. It’s popular in the Sherry-style Marouvas, a traditional wine on the island.