Cretan wines

The varieties, the vineyards and Chania wineries

Cretan wines are wines produced on the Greek island of Crete, which has a long history of wine production dating back thousands of years. The island’s diverse microclimates, from the high altitude mountain slopes to the coastal plains, create ideal conditions for growing a variety of grape varieties.

One of the most famous Cretan grape varieties is the white grape variety Vidiano, which produces aromatic and full-bodied wines with flavors of tropical fruits and citrus. Another important white grape variety is Vilana, which produces light and refreshing wines with flavors of green apple and pear.

For red wines, one of the most important grape varieties is Kotsifali, which produces medium-bodied wines with aromas of red fruit and spices. Another important red grape variety is Mandilaria, which produces bold and tannic wines with flavors of blackberry and black cherry.

Cretan winemakers also produce a variety of blended wines using different grape varieties, which allows them to create unique and complex flavor profiles. Many wineries on the island offer wine tastings and tours, allowing visitors to learn more about the island’s wine culture and taste the different wines for themselves.

Overall, Cretan wines are known for their high quality, unique flavors, and the island’s long history of winemaking. They are a must-try for any wine lover visiting Crete.



The varieties

Even though the ampelographers of the 19th century have recorded up to 72 grape varieties in the Cretan vineyard, of course not all of them distinct to one another, and not all of them appropriate for winemaking, today fewer than 10 cover large areas, while an equal number of cosmopolitan varieties also has a notable presence.

Among them, at the moment, the first place is held by the red Liatiko, an ancient variety that got its name due to its earliness (Iouliatiko, i.e. ‘that happens in July’ in Greece, >Liatiko), which produces wines with high levels of alcohol often with variable colour. The also red Kotsifali and Romeiko – this is grown almost exclusively in Chania – follow, and the white Vilana, an old variety that, as its name implies (from the Venetian villano = rough, coarse) was not valued much, although now there are some very well-made options available. Also, the red Tsardana, from the same family as Romeiko, that we only find in western Crete, the red Mandilari, and the white Thrapsathiri and Vidiano (the rising star of the Cretan vineyard that is “already making it abroad”) and the white small-grape Muscat, with the local clones of Spina and Maza. The most popular cosmopolitan varieties on the island are the Mediterranean reds Syrah and Grenache and the ever-present Cabernet Sauvignon.


At the vineyards and the wineries

In essence, wherever you are in Crete – with very few exceptions – there will be a winery nearby worth visiting and tasting its wines. Ideally, however, if you really want to explore all the wine-making zones on the island, you’ll drive about 300 kilometres on the Northern Road Axis of Crete (A90) from mount Kissamos, in the West, to Sitia in the East, making many detours to the South, especially in the wider area of Heraklion. Alternatively, just keep on reading.




The vineyards of the Prefectural Administration of Chania cover more than 15.000 acres, and they stretch mostly along the northern coast, with the best located in the northern slopes of Lefka Ori. Approximately 80% of them are covered by Romeiko, a local grape variety, with many clones, productive, highly alcoholic, with poor colour intensity, that is used to make the very popular, locally, Marouvas wine. If one can find real Marouvas, and not something sold in plastic water bottles, it’s worth trying, even if just for the experience. It is a special red wine, of high alcoholic content, intensely oxidative with aromas that even evoke cognac. The aging process resembles an early version of the solera system that is used for the Spanish sherry. The area only has two Protected Geographical Indications (PGI): Chania and Kissamos.


The area’s wineries that stand out:

manousakis winery tours 6

Manousakis Winery in the village of Vatolakkos, on the way to the Omalos Plateau, around 15 kilometres southwest of the city of Chania. Theodoros Manousakis, a Cretan raised in the USA, passionate about his homeland, with the help of French specialists, pedologists and viticulturists, has created one of the most beautiful vineyards in Crete. At altitudes of 350 and 600 metres above sea-level the “southern” red varieties of Syrah, Grenache Rouge and Mourvèdre, together with the white Roussanne, were planted and in the care of oenologists Kostis and Giannis Galanis produce wines with strong personality and of high quality. Alexandra Manousakis oversees the brand new and very beautiful winery that is open to visitors.



The Anoskeli winery is also open to visitors, owned by the well-known Mamidakis family. It’s located in the village of the same name, on the way to Paliochora, right outside of Voukolies.

It offers a small selection of well-made wines from its private vineyard, using Greek and cosmopolitan varieties.



Just before you reach Voukolies, at Pontikiana village, you will find the Karavitakis Estate and Winery.

The creation of experienced oenologist Manolis Karavitakis, who has now passed the business to his son, Nikos, it offers a reliable line of products that are based mostly on well-travelled grape varieties, which they grow on their private vineyards as well as on contract ones.


wine tour in crete 02

Another family producing good work in the field, is Andreas Dourakis’ family, and you can visit their winery located in Alikampos on the way to Sfakia, while it’s also worth visiting the Monastery of Agia Triada Tsangarolon in the Akrotiri peninsula, that offers more traditional wines, even when they come from international varieties. Rare but extremely interesting are the labels of the small winery Endochora, in Apokoronas.

source :

If you are staying at Folia Hotel Apartments which is located in Agia Marina, and would like to visit Chania wineries it is actually quite simple. Of course, it is necessary to have a car for your trip, but a daily bus route is also available.

Ask our reception for more details, and also visit our website at for more suggested trips.