Our guide to two local wineries in Crete, Greece, was an enologist – wearing a WSET pin similar to my own – and also a linguist, who chose to spend his summer giving winery tours in Greece. Lucky us! Via a Food and Wine magazine collaboration, Holland America cruises offered us two wineries to try in one relaxing afternoon.
From our host we learned that Crete is 165 miles long from one end to the other. There are four main areas, and over one million people. While winters are mild (we were there early October and it was perfect) the summers are excruciatingly hot.
Greeks languish over wine tasting with plenty of food pairings, which would extend for hours if there also happened to be a celebration such as a wedding or birthday. Wine drinking is “a very social thing” and Greeks “eat and drink slowly and steadily for hours.”
The terrain, rocky and mountainous, lends itself to both Greek and non-Greek wine grapes. Traditionally there are 16 varieties most used: eight are local and the remaining eight are international; four in each category are white, the other four are red. But there are thousands of varieties made.
Note: I have had tastings and Greek wine education, but it had been years so this was a great way to renew my education and interest. Also of notes, the pricing of these Greek wines was more than reasonable and many guests bought bottles to have on the boat, to take home and for gifts. Now let me share some of my tasting notes and takeaways from the two wineries:
These wines were served with salty black olives, local hard sharp cheese and delicious croutons made with black olives and plentifully topped with sesame seeds.
2021 Kompsos (white)
Vidiano, Assyrtiko, Malvasia grapes
The name Kompsos means elegant, and this wine was made from three local varieties. It tasted like a dry Sauvignon Blanc to my palate plus the fruit of a Viognier. It had low acid with plenty of lime and Meyer lemon; it was fresh with a light viscosity. A great start for me.
2021 Moschato Spinas (dry white)
With sweet stone fruit, Earl Gray tea and a lemony finish the winery host said the wine as a good aperitif and I had to agree.
2021 Kompsos Liatiko Rose
This Rose wine, my first time tasting a Greek Rose, was “elegant” just as the name Kompsos promised. The color was a peachy salmon, with aromas of watermelon and talcum powder – which I happen to love! The flavor reminded me of the freshest of strawberries and watermelon, with a slight acidity.
2020 Klima Kotsifali Mavrotragano (red)
The work Klima refers to climate, and the words Kotsifali Mavrotragano refer to the two grape varieties used, which should express itself with a “lighter color, body and tannins.” Other wineries mostly “add Syrah for color”, but the Mavrotragano does the trick as it’s a “black grape…crisp…and (we) only used 10%.” I got stewed cranberry, cherry, and other red fruits in this dry wine. It reminded me of a terroir-rich Pinot Noir or Grenache, and it was my favorite wine in the line-up.
2019 Eca Blend (red)
This was the favorite for most of the people in our tour. It is named after an olive tree located 1-½ miles away from the winery and credited for being over 3,000 years old. The wine is 70% Syrah, 20% Grenache Rose and 10% Carignan. Smelled very much like a Cabernet Sauvignon to me, and the guest nearest me said it “tastes like velvet.” Our winery host said the wine could age for 10 years. (All of the other wines were ready to drink now.) While the nose was dry, the flavors in the glass were that raspberry and cranberry fruit again.
2010 Viates Avo Purasko (sweet red wine, no photo)
I got wonderful notes of caramel, plum, currant…and it reminded me very much of a ruby Port wine.
Our winery host explained that the Manousakis family created the winery – with the help of experts – due to the growing tourism in Greece in the late 1980s.
These wines were paired with a toasted brown crouton-type cracker that was served with a rock-type white salt and olive oil they made at the winery.
2018 Nostos “The Journey” Assyrtiko (white)
Very lemony and tart, with notes of lime, green grass (aroma only!), and yellow apple. It was refreshing, and, like the white we started with at Karavitakis, refreshing.
2020 Nostos Muscat of Spina (white, dry Muscat)
Honeyed, peach, dried apricot, with a nice acidity and dryness. This was the group’s favorite of the two whites.
2016 Nostos “The Journey” Grenache (red)
This was my favorite wine at Manousakis. Stems, black and red cherry, dry, tannic, balanced, and it reminded me of a nice cherry liqueur, thought it was very well done.
2018 Nostos Blend (red)
Balanced, brighter than the Alexander (below) but a similar profile. Thought the blend wasn’t mentioned, or on the label, my guess that it was also a GSM blend.
2018 Nostos Alexander (red)
40% Syrah, 40% Grenache, 20% Mourvedre young vines.
Black cherry, both sweet and dry, with chocolate notes, sweet pipe smoke and firm tannins. This was also a favorite of the group’s and mine.
Other things we learned in Greece, between this tour and one other with a Greek guide included:
The olive trees are plentiful and very old. I rarely saw a vineyard, but I saw plenty of olive trees!
Greeks are friendly people, lots of smiles and greetings, arguments are short-lived and be careful when they talk with their hands as they are far-reaching!
Websites and social media:
Eve Bushman has a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), a “certification in the first globally-recognized course” as an American Wine Specialist ® from the North American Sommelier Association (NASA), Level 1 Sake Award from WSET, was the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video (over 16k views), authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and has served as a judge for the Long Beach Grand Cru and the Global Wine Awards. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits.