Stilianou Winery near Knossos

The Stilianou Winery near Knossos on Crete uses only Cretan grape varieties, with every bottle numbered, and aims for quality rather than quantity.

Ioannis Stilianou at his winery on CreteIoannis Stilianou

'I prefer to make small quantity but high quality,' Ioannis Stilianou tells us as we tour his winery outside the village of Kounavi. The village has a long association with wine-making, and no doubt people like Ioannis were making wine for the Minoans at the Palace of Knossos, which is a 15-minute drive to the north. 

Directions to Stilianou Winery near Knossos on CreteThe Stilianou Winery is near Knossos on Crete

All Photos (c) Mike Gerrard and Donna Dailey for Greece Travel Secrets

It's a very scenic drive too, and well worth making to visit this winery, which is signposted thanks to the brown signs being posted everywhere on Crete these days by the Wines of Crete organisation. Cretan wine is booming, and touring wineries like Stilianou is increasingly popular. 

Stilianou Winery near Knossos on CreteThe Stilianou Winery

It was late afternoon when we arrived, the perfect time of day. Ioannis greeted us and we gazed out over his vineyards which stretch out below his winery to distant mountains beyond. The vines cover seven hectares (17 acres) and produce 20,000 bottles a year, every one of which is numbered.

Vines at the Stilianou Winery near Knossos on CreteThe Stilianou Winery's Vineyards

'It takes us 2-3 weeks to do all the harvesting,' Ioannis says. 'Everything is done by hand. We are completely organic, and only use Cretan grape varieties.'

Ioannis is a gentle and quietly-spoken man, and clearly very content with his life, as well as passionate about making the best wine he possibly can. It's a wine you won't find available in shops on Crete, only at the winery and in several top restaurants, such as the fabulous Tamam in Chania

Barrels at the Stilianou Winery near Knossos on CreteBarrels at the Stilianou Winery

The winery is small and a tour doesn't take long. First Ioannis leads us into the cellar.

'The cellar is five metres underground,' he tells us, 'and maintains a temperature of 13-17 degrees, all year round. First the grapes go into a separator, to extract the juice, and the red grape juice goes into the vats.'

Ioannis Stilianou at his winery on CreteIoannis Stilianou

Ioannis makes one red wine, one white wine and one rosé, and a red dessert wine from sun-dried grapes, kotsifali grapes which first spend ten days drying in the sun. It's the same grape also used to make raisins. 

'The white and rosé are young wines,' Ioannis explains, 'and they are ready in 5-6 months. The red wine, though, spends 2-3 years in a vat, and then it goes into French oak barrels for a further two years, and then back into the vat for another 2-3 years. In total we make about 2,000 bottles of rosé each year, and 1,000 bottles of dessert wine, and the other 17,000 is red and white wine.'

Bottles at the Stilianou Winery near Knossos on CreteSome Stilianou Wines

After seeing how the wine is made, we go back upstairs to enjoy a tasting of the wines. Ioannis serves us breadsticks and some of his own olive oil, which is wonderfully rich and thick.

Wine-tasting at the Stilianou Winery near Knossos on CreteA Stilianou Wine-Tasting

'First we try Theon Dora White,' Ioannis says, pouring a generous measure. 'This is made from a blend of the traditional Cretan grape varieties of vilana, vidiano and thrapsathiri. It's fruity yet earthy, thanks to the limestone terroir. It's an easy-drinking light summer wine which is very good with seafood.'

Our Pick of the Crete Guides

Lonely-Planet-Crete-2023.png

Next in line is the Theon Dora Dry Rosé, made from two other Cretan grape varieties:  kotsifali and mantilari. It tastes crisp yet fruity, and although it's a dry wine the flavours of apricot and peach lend it a certain natural sweetness too.

Bottles at the Stilianou Winery near Knossos on CreteWine Bottles in the Stilianou Cellar

'The wine spends about 11 hours with the skins,' Ioannis explains, 'but it can vary from 7-15 hours depending on the year. It's very dry, and good with seafood, pasta or chicken. It's a summer rosé.'

It certainly is, and every bit as good as rosés we've had from Provence. Ioannis then pours us each a glass of his Thion Gi Dry Red Wine.

Wine-tasting at the Stilianou Winery near Knossos on CreteIoannis Stilianou pouring Wine at a Wine-Tasting

'The name means Land of the Gods,' Ioannis tells us. 'It's a dry red wine from the traditional Cretan grape varieties of kotsifali and mantilari. It's matured in French oak barrels and has fruits and spices flavours. This spends two years with the skins, and two years in French oak barrels. It will keep for several years without a problem. It has a very herbal nose. Smell the sunshine!'

Wine-tasting at the Stilianou Winery near Knossos on CreteThe Wine-Tasting Menu

Finally we sample the dark red dessert wine, called simply Kotsifali. It's a lush and beautifully rich colour, with a taste to match.

'This is made purely from kotsifali grapes,' Ioannis says, 'and is the only kotsifali dessert wine in Greece. It's a difficult grape, a difficult process to make it. It's very raisiny, not sweet, and has a pruney taste. It's a very good aperitif too, but also good with fruit and ice cream as a dessert wine.'

Ioannis is clearly proud of his wines, and so he should be. Little wonder some people on TripAdvisor have called this the best winery tour on Crete. 

The Stilianou Winery near Knossos

Wine-tasting at the Stilianou Winery near Knossos on CreteThe Stilianou Winery near Knossos on Crete

More Information
http://www.stilianouwines.gr

Our visit to the Stilianou Winery was arranged by the excellent
Go Crete tour company.

And here's a short video we did with Ioannis Stilianou about Cretan grape varieties:


Other Crete pages

  • If you're wondering where to eat in Athens and Piraeus we have a few suggestions including some favorites around the Acropolis, Omonia Square, and Syntagma.

    Where to Eat in Athens and Piraeus

    If you're wondering where to eat in Athens and Piraeus we have a few suggestions including some favorites around the Acropolis, Omonia Square, and Syntagma.

  • Greece Travel Secrets tells the history of the classic Greek dish tzatziki, with a recipe for making your own yogurt and cucumber dip.

    History of Tzatziki and a Recipe

    Greece Travel Secrets tells the history of the classic Greek dish tzatziki, with a recipe for making your own yogurt and cucumber dip.

  • Greece Travel Secrets recommends where to stay in western Crete, including both luxury and inexpensive hotels in Chania, Rethymnon, and Paleochora.

    Where to Stay in Western Crete

    Greece Travel Secrets recommends where to stay in western Crete, including both luxury and inexpensive hotels in Chania, Rethymnon, and Paleochora.

  • Greece Travel Secrets recommends where to stay in Irakleio, the capital of Crete, including nearby beach resort hotels and accommodation in the city centre.

    Where to Stay in Irakleio

    Greece Travel Secrets recommends where to stay in Irakleio, the capital of Crete, including nearby beach resort hotels and accommodation in the city centre.

  • Greece Travel Secrets suggests where to stay in Eastern Crete with our favourite hotels in Zakros, Elounds, Sitia, Agios Nikolaos, Istron Bay, Myrtos, Neapolis.

    Where to Stay in Eastern Crete

    Greece Travel Secrets suggests where to stay in Eastern Crete with our favourite hotels in Zakros, Elounds, Sitia, Agios Nikolaos, Istron Bay, Myrtos, Neapolis.

  • Keramos Studios in Zaros on Crete is an inexpensive two-star hotel/guesthouse with one of the best breakfasts on the island using food from the family’s farm.

    Keramos Studios in Zaros

    Keramos Studios in Zaros on Crete is an inexpensive two-star hotel/guesthouse with one of the best breakfasts on the island using food from the family’s farm.

  • Greece Travel Secrets recommends where to stay in Central Crete including hotels in Matala, Ayia Galini, and Zaros.

    Where to Stay in Central Crete

    Greece Travel Secrets recommends where to stay in Central Crete including hotels in Matala, Ayia Galini, and Zaros.

  • The best Crete hotels include 5-star luxury hotels, historic and romantic Venetian palaces, and several hotels in Hania and Iraklion.

    Best Crete Hotels

    The best Crete hotels include 5-star luxury hotels, historic and romantic Venetian palaces, and several hotels in Hania and Iraklion.

  • Crete (Kriti) is the largest Greek island and its main attractions include the Minoan Palace of Knossos, the Samarian Gorge, Chania and Rethymnon.

    Crete

    Crete (Kriti) is the largest Greek island and its main attractions include the Minoan Palace of Knossos, the Samarian Gorge, Chania and Rethymnon.

  • Antonis Maroudas is a Zakynthos winemaker who lives on the 'wine road' and is one of the people who make Zakynthos.

    Zakynthos Winemaker

    Antonis Maroudas is a Zakynthos winemaker who lives on the 'wine road' and is one of the people who make Zakynthos.

  • Corfu’s special cuisine includes dishes like sofrito and pastitsade and the chance to try ginger beer and kumquats.

    Corfu’s Special Cuisine

    Corfu’s special cuisine includes dishes like sofrito and pastitsade and the chance to try ginger beer and kumquats.

  • Corfu olives are an important part of this Greek island's economy, with an estimated 3-4 million trees producing olive oil of exceptional quality.

    Corfu Olives

    Corfu olives are an important part of this Greek island's economy, with an estimated 3-4 million trees producing olive oil of exceptional quality.

  •  Information for travelers on Corfu Food and Drink including restaurants and tavernas, Corfiot specialties, desserts, wine and other Greek drinks like ouzo.

    Corfu Food and Drink

    Information for travelers on Corfu Food and Drink including restaurants and tavernas, Corfiot specialties, desserts, wine and other Greek drinks like ouzo.

  • The First Corfu Beer Festival took place in Arillas in North West Corfu and celebrated the beer of Bavaria and of Corfu, in the Ionian islands of Greece.

    Corfu Beer Festival

    The First Corfu Beer Festival took place in Arillas in North West Corfu and celebrated the beer of Bavaria and of Corfu, in the Ionian islands of Greece.

  • The Greece Travel Secrets guide to tipping in Greece from two Greece travel experts, including when to tip, what to tip and when not to tip.

    Tipping in Greece

    The Greece Travel Secrets guide to tipping in Greece from two Greece travel experts, including when to tip, what to tip and when not to tip.

  • What is Metaxa? Metaxa is an amber Greek spirit combining brandy made by distilling wine, sweet wine from Samos and a secret recipe of Mediterranean botanicals.

    What Is Metaxa?

    What is Metaxa? Metaxa is an amber Greek spirit combining brandy made by distilling wine, sweet wine from Samos and a secret recipe of Mediterranean botanicals.

  • Raki is an alcoholic drink made with distilled grapes and anise, and popular in Greece and other Mediterranean countries, including Greece’s neighbour Turkey.

    What Is Greek Raki?

    Raki is an alcoholic drink made with distilled grapes and anise, and popular in Greece and other Mediterranean countries, including Greece’s neighbour Turkey.

  • What is a Greek Salad – a Greek Salad is made up of tomatoes, cucumber, onions, green pepper, olives, and feta cheese.

    What Is a Greek Salad

    What is a Greek Salad – a Greek Salad is made up of tomatoes, cucumber, onions, green pepper, olives, and feta cheese.

  • Moussaka: A Culinary Journey through Greek History, and a Recipe

    Greece Travel Secrets reveals the history of the classic Greek dish, moussaka, as well as providing a recipe for you to make your own.

  • Greek retsina is a dry white wine made and drunk all over Greece with a distinctive pine and resin flavour that people usually either love or hate.

    Greek Retsina

    Greek retsina is a dry white wine made and drunk all over Greece with a distinctive pine and resin flavour that people usually either love or hate.

  • Greek ouzo is an aniseed-based aperitif made all over the country but especially on Lesbos, tasting like a Greek pastis or arak and usually drunk with water.

    Greek Ouzo

    Greek ouzo is an aniseed-based aperitif made all over the country but especially on Lesbos, tasting like a Greek pastis or arak and usually drunk with water.

  • The Greece Travel Secrets guide to Greek grape varieties to help you know which wines to choose when dining in restaurants or buying wine in Greece.

    Greek Grape Varieties

    The Greece Travel Secrets guide to Greek grape varieties to help you know which wines to choose when dining in restaurants or buying wine in Greece.

  • Greek food and drink is a highlight of any visit and Greece Travel Secrets brings you info about food and drink from all over Greece, from Athens to Zakynthos.

    Greek Food and Drink

    Greek food and drink is a highlight of any visit and Greece Travel Secrets brings you info about food and drink from all over Greece, from Athens to Zakynthos.

  • Greek feta cheese is the most popular cheese in Greece, usually made from sheep’s milk, with a soft texture and salty taste and used to top off a Greek salad.

    Greek Feta Cheese

    Greek feta cheese is the most popular cheese in Greece, usually made from sheep’s milk, with a soft texture and salty taste and used to top off a Greek salad.

  • Greek alcoholic drinks include distinctly Greek drinks such as ouzo, Metaxa, retsina, raki, tsikoudia and tsipouro, but also Greek wines and Greek beers.

    Greek Alcoholic Drinks

    Greek alcoholic drinks include distinctly Greek drinks such as ouzo, Metaxa, retsina, raki, tsikoudia and tsipouro, but also Greek wines and Greek beers.

Enjoy this page? Please pay it forward. Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.

Latest Posts

  1. Travel + Leisure: Four Greek Hotels Among Best in the World and Europe

    The World’s Best Awards by Travel + Leisure recently ranked four Greek hotels among the best in the world and Europe, honoring them for their luxurious atmosphere and top-notch hospitality.

    Read More

  2. Seaplane Test Flights Connect Skopelos, Alonissos, Skyros

    Greek seaplane company Hellenic Seaplanes on Friday laid the groundwork for some of the Greek islands that will welcome seaplanes and carried out its first flights between three islands of the Sporade…

    Read More

  3. AirDNA: Greece’s 3 Cities with Affordable Airbnb Rates

    Iceland, Monaco, the UK, Greece, and Spain are Europe’s most expensive countries for short-term rentals, according to analytics experts AirDNA.

    Read More

  4. Santorini Cannot Support Even One More Hotel or Airbnb Bed

    Santorini is now coping with the repercussions of overtourism generated by cruise ships and day-trippers from Crete and other adjacent islands.

    Read More

  5. 9 Tasty Stops in the Cyclades for Authentic Flavors

    Restaurants, tavernas, and grocery stores that highlight the local flavors of the Cyclades.

    Read More

  6. Where to Eat on Symi

    taverna-o-meraklis-symi-2.webp
    Greece Travel Secrets picks where to eat on Symi, down by the harbour or in the upper town, and whether you like fish, meat, vegetarian, traditional or modern.

    Read More

  7. Restaurants with Acropolis Views

    gb-roof-garden-restaurant-dusk.webp
    Greece Travel Secrets chooses its top ten Athens restaurants with Acropolis views, perfect for dining by day or by night, including places with Michelin stars.

    Read More

  8. The Ilisian: Reimagining an Icon of Modern Athens

    The former Hilton Athens is being transformed into a multi-faceted destination that aspires to forge exciting new connections between the Greek capital and the rest of the world.

    Read More

  9. Athens Acropolis Offers Exclusive Private Tours for VIP Visitors

    Controversial €5,000 VIP tours of the world-famous Acropolis of Athens spark debate over the commercialization of Greece’s historic monuments.

    Read More

  10. Uber Expands ‘Boat’ App to Santorini, Corfu and Athenian Riviera

    Travelers visiting some of the most popular Greek islands can now enjoy their summer excursions by using the Uber Boat App to rent a speedboat to explore beach clubs, scenic coves, and remote locales…

    Read More