Best wineries in Heraklio Crete

Best wineries in Heraklion. Crete Wine tour. Crete Winery tour.
Going down a steep dirt road in the back of a pickup truck can be quite an experience, but it’s also the best way to take in all the wild beauty of the Cretan land.


Built on the Fantaxometocho Estate – which in Greek means the haunted estate – the Boutari Winery is close to the archaeological site of Knossos.

The estate owes its name to a previous owner who, in order to keep thieves away, promulgated a story about the estate being haunted. Surrounded by its vineyards, the winery offers spectacular views of the nearby hills and is open to visitors who wish to tour the cellars, take cooking lessons offered on the premises, or stay in one of the three suites at the estate’s old guest house. The Boutaris family bought the estate in the ’90s and, in 2014, begun to replant the whole vineyard, focusing on the indigenous varieties of Crete.

Lately it has been rebranding some of its labels even while new products are also hitting the market. Enjoying a lovely lunch, we had the pleasure of tasting the brand new Scalarea Vidiano-Athiri , a crisp white wine, and the red Scalarea, made from Syrah and Kotsifali.
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Going down a steep dirt road in the back of a pickup truck can be quite an experience, but it’s also the best way to take in all the wild beauty of the Cretan land. Vineyards and olive groves are all you’ll see going down the hill from the village where Nikos Douloufakis has his winery.

“These are all very small parcels of land, since, according to Cretan tradition, each piece of land had to be divided equally among the family’s children,” he explains. “So you get a small vineyard here, an olive grove there, and then another vineyard. Unfortunately, this dispersal doesn’t help with costs, but it does give our wines complexity,” he tells us as we walk under the burning Cretan sun. All the vineyards are located on slopes. “All the work is done in the vineyard,” he says.

Truly proud of his Cretan heritage, he insists that one of the greatest advantages of Greek wine is its long history. “Crete is a very strong brand of its own, and lately Cretan wines have been doing really well in markets abroad. We export to France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, the United States and Canada.”


If you’re in the area of Irakleio, this is one winery that you shouldn’t really miss. Contrary to the local tradition of having small parcels of land, this winery is surrounded by 14.5 hectares of vineyards which Sotiris Lyrarakis obtained in the ‘60s.

The winemaking experience of Lyrarakis was finally “bottled” for the first time in 1996. This is truly a family business; brothers, cousins and nephews are all involved, as the older generation is now giving way to the younger one. “Back in the ‘90s, the trend was to plant international varieties, mainly Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. We decided to replant a big part of our vineyards, giving more emphasis to two local unique varieties: Plyto, a white, and Dafni, a red,” explains George Lyrarakis. “From a commercial point of view, this was suicide. But we were committed to saving these varieties from extinction. The truth is that most people prefer something more common like a Chardonnay, but we also get a lot of tourists who are looking to try something different.” Lyrarakis is also the first winery which worked on blending the indigenous red variety Kotsifali with Syrah, with great success. Since 2005, they have been experimenting with a Mandilari, another indigenous red variety, which was traditionally used in a blend with Kotsifali. According to George, Crete’s climate is ideal for producing great wines.

In 2007, the winery opened its doors to the public; since then, it has been receiving thousands of visitors every year, mostly tourists. Their wines have won prizes in international contests, and are being exported to other European countries as well as to the United States, Canada, Australia and China.
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Walking ito the Paterianakis Winery in Arhanes we found ourselves in front of a table covered with Cretan delicacies, cheese, olives, homemade bread there was, of course wine as well, all in a room with enormous windows offering a breathtaking view of the vineyards. The winery, established by George Paterianakis’ father, is now being run by his two daughters, Emmanuela and Niki.

The estate produces organic wines, following the practices of biodynamic viticulture, which forms part of the tradition of winemaking in Crete. The wines are divided into three groups, according to varieties and vineyards. The Local Treasures are made strictly from local varieties, the Premium Wines are a blend of a local and an international variety, and the Vintage Spirits are wines made from indigenous varieties that come from the older vineyards. In the vineyard, the family follows all the traditional practices of their grandfather, harvesting by hand and taking good care of the grape at all stages. One of their goals is to spread the philosophy of biodynamic cultivation, the tradition of the older generations on Crete. The estate produces 120,000 bottles, many of which end up in Switzerland, Cyprus and the United States.


A few kilometers away, we came across the Silva Daskalaki Winery. Its owner, Irini Daskalaki full of relentless energy She wakes up every morning at five o’clock to tend to the vines and goes to bed only after having inspected all the work in the winery. A strong believer in biodynamic viticulture, she smiles and says: “I was born on a full moon; this must have had something to do with it.” She follows a special calendar based on the moon phases, according to which she plans all the work that has to be done in the vineyard. “These are practices known to us from our grandmothers,” she says, “and we see the result in the quality of our wines. I believe there’s something magical behind all this, and it is priceless.” Her daughter Haroula is responsible for bottling and marketing.

“You can’t be a real winemaker if you’re not willing to put your hands in the dirt,” Irini says. “You’ve to be very careful during all the stages of winemaking, because what good is it having a good grape and then messing up with the winemaking?” Her hard work has been recognized; the estate’s wines have won numerous prizes, which has helped them to go on despite the problems caused by the economic crisis. The estate’s emphasis is on indigenous varieties, although their best wine is considered to be a blend of Kotsifali and Syrah. They also produce a series of sweet wines from local varieties.
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One of many young aspiring wine producers in Crete, Zacharias Diamantakis welcomed us to his winery on the steep slopes of the eastern foothills of Crete’s highest mountain, Psiloritis. The vineyards here are at an elevation of 400m with a southeastern aspect. They have been planted on terraces because of the steepness of the slope, making manual harvesting quite a challenge.

The varieties planted there are the indigenous Mandilari and Malvasia, as well as Chardonnay. A little higher up, at 600m, is a vineyard planted with Assyrtiko. “Crete can produce an excellent Assyrtiko,” says Zacharias. He believes that one of the biggest challenges for Cretan wines in the near future will be an increase in exports, a goal, he says, that has been set collectively, through Wines Of Crete, a network created by the producers for the promotion of their wines.