Wines of Crete continues to win more territory in international wine markets. The collective effort of the modern, organized wine makers of the island has brought local wines into wine lovers markets around the globe. Slowly but steadily, the different wine varieties from the Crete get to the position they deserve. As explained in previous articles, wine making in Crete is special for both its long tradition, as well as, the special geo-climatic conditions of the island. Because of the later a series of amazing varieties of grapes make Cretan wine hard to ignore.
What follows is a list of the top 5 must try wines based on the criteria of how rare it is and how different it is from other wines one can have. At this point it is important to note that I am writing this not as a wine specialist, but as a connoisseur. In the text that follows you will not find any wine specialist terminology or advice. Instead you will read the opinion of a person in search of flavors that are special in different ways. So here we go:
1. Dafni- Δαφνί
This is a type of wine everyone agrees is a special as a white wine can be. Dafni is a white grape variety that offers an amazing combination of herbal flavors. The name derives from the plant Δάφνη-Dafni which in Greek is the laurel or bay leaf. This is because the initial nose, as well as, flavor is that of a bay leaf. My personal view is that it could easily be called rosemary as well, since after a few seconds from the first sip a bouquet of rosemary flavor appears. Perhaps this is the one wine that encapsulates Cretan landscapes in the best possible way. Dafni was almost extinct until a local family initiative brought it back to the wine making scene of the island. You can taste it fresh or aged (yes it is a white that can be aged) and it is the perfect wine to combine with cheese, raw or cooked vegetables, and white meat.
2. Moschato of Spina- Μοσχάτο Σπίνας
Moschato from Spina is a white wine with a huge surprise. It is among the few wines that tastes completely different than what it smells. The initial nose is creating the expectation of a sweet wine. However the taste is something completely different. Dry, fruity yet buttery and mellow are the first impressions when it comes to taste. The vine itself is a clone from the global known Moschato, however the original birthplace of the Cretan variety is a location called Spina somewhere between Rethimnon and Chania in Western Crete, hence the name. An ideal refreshing summer white wine, or in my opinion, the perfect first date wine. Not strong, easy drinking, fruity flavor, a lot of promise….
3. Vidinano- Βιδιανό
Another white wine with an exceptional character. Vidiano is a variety that according to a lot of wine makers is the future of wine making in Crete and Greece. In the original webpage of the wines of Crete it is characterized as the next Diva of Cretan wine making due its apricot, creamy flavor. Another important characteristic of this special wine is that it can be aged into barrels. Modern wine makers spend are doing a lot of experimentation in order to highlight this special ability of Vidiano. Combine it with pasta, fish, or white meat with lemony sauces.
4. Mandilari- Μανδηλάρι
From the reds the one MUST try wine in Crete is Mandilari. This is a love it or hate it type of wine. Strong, with a lot of tannin this thick red wine will not disappoint regardless if you hate it or love it. The brutality of its character makes wine makers blend it with other varieties in order to make it more applicable to the markets. If you try it on its own keep in mind that it is among the type of wines that grabs your tongue aggressively and does not let go. However, whether you have it is a blend, or on its own, it is the perfect wine to escort a nice beef steak or a soft piece of lamb.
Surprise surprise. Here is a Frenchman or woman. This is a proposal for more universal flavors. Lets say you have tried every local variety in Crete and you want to taste something familiar. Syrah is your choice. This wine, although well known around the world from the French winemakers, is doing fantastic in the climatic and geographic conditions of Crete. Actually it is doing so well it is developing a character which differentiates a little from the original. The slightly fruitier flavor and more gentle character have created the perfect alternative from foreign varieties, as well as, a great companion for blends with the local heavier and more tannik wines. Enjoy it with red sauces, and casserole dishes.