Stilianou Winery near Knossos

Crete

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.'

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:


Where to Stay on Crete



Some other Crete pages

  • Thessaloniki: City of Gastronomy

    UNESCO has made Thessaloniki a City of Gastronomy, under its Creative Cities network, the only city in Greece to be acknowledged for its unique food and drink.

  • Crete

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

  • Santorini Wineries

    Visiting Santorini wineries is a popular activity on this Greek island in the Cyclades, whose volcanic soil provides a distinctive terroir.

  • Zakynthos Winemaker

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

  • Zacharioudakis Winery

    Greece Travel Secrets visits the Zacharioudakis Winery near Ancient Gortina in southern Crete, and does a vineyard tour arranged by our guide from Go Crete.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Touring the Lyrarakis Winery on Crete

    Greece Travel Secrets tours the Lyrarakis Winery on Crete and learns about Crete grape varieties such as plyto, dafni, vidiano, vilana, mandilari and kotsifali.

  • 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.

  • The Icon Painter

    Icon painting is a centuries-old tradition in Crete and the rest of Greece, and Greece Travel Secrets meets a modern-day icon painter in Elounda on Crete.

  • The Herb Man of Kouses

    Greece Travel Secrets visits the Cretan Botano herbs and spices shop near Matala in southern Crete in search of the herb man of Kouses.

  • The Cretan Diet

    Studies have shown the Cretan Diet as one of the healthiest in the world, involving lots of fresh fruit, vegetables, fresh fish, and moderate amounts of wine.

  • The Snails House on Crete

    The Snails House in Plouti near Phaistos in southern Crete serves the Cretan delicacy of snails, cooked in several different ways.

  • Sir Arthur Evans, archaeologist at Knossos on Crete

    Sir Arthur Evans is the archaeologist famous for the excavations he made at the royal palace of Knossos on Crete.

  • Samaria Gorge

    The Samaria Gorge is one the longest gorges in Europe and doing the hike is one of the best and most popular things to do on Crete.

  • Rethymnon in Western Crete

    Rethymnon is the third-largest city in Crete and has a Venetian fortress, Archaeological Museum, Old Town area and Venetian harbour,

  • Phaistos Minoan Palace on Crete

    Greece Travel Secrets page on Phaistos or Faistos, the site of one of the finest Minoan palaces on Crete and is where the mysterious Phaistos Disc was found.

  • Paleohora and the South-West Coast

    The area east from Paleohora along the south-west coast of Crete includes resorts like Agia Galini, gorges like the Imbros Gorge and quieter towns like Sfakia.

  • Our Hire Car in Crete

    The travel tale Our Hire Car in Crete describes what it’s like when you go driving in Greece and get off the beaten track, resulting in kindnesses.

  • Museum of Samos Wine

    A visit to the Museum of Samos Wine to learn about the muscat grapes that produce the best dessert wines in the world and also the Greek spirit, Metaxa.

  • Matala Beach

    Matala Beach on Crete is a guest blog for Greece Travel Secrets from the We Love Crete website, inviting you to Awaken Your Inner Hippy in Matala, Crete.

  • Margarites

    Margarites is known on Crete for its pottery, with ceramics shops and workshops lining the streets of this charming small town not far from Rethymnon.

  • Manousakis Wine Tasting

    We visit and tour the Manousakis Winery on Crete with a wine-tasting and a chance to buy their tsikoudia, sea salt, olive oil and other goodies.

  • Malia and its Minoan Palace on Crete

    Malia on the north coast of Crete is renowned for its nightlife and beaches but also has the Minoan Palace of Malia, one of Crete's many archaeological sites.

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. Nobel Foundation Returns Mycenaean Gold Ring to Greece

    An ancient gold ring dating back to Mycenaean times was recently returned to Greece by Sweden’s Nobel Foundation, according to an announcement of the Greek Culture Ministry. The Mycenaean signet ring…

    Read More

  2. Greece’s Kastellorizo to Host 1st Rock Solid Trail Race in June

    Kastellorizo, one of Greece’s smallest islands located in the Dodecanese, is getting ready to host the 1st Rock Solid island trail race, scheduled to take place during June 11-12.

    Read More

  3. EU: Greece Among Winners of Natura 2000 Awards for Nature Protection

    Greece is among the six winners of the 2022 edition of the Natura 2000 Awards, an event that recognises conservation success stories across the EU and raises awareness on the Natura 2000 protected are…

    Read More

  4. Greece Takes First Step to Create Museum of Underwater Antiquities in Piraeus

    The Piraeus Port Authority (PPA) has handed over under a concession deal a 1934 silo on the port of Piraeus and the surrounding space to the Greek Culture Ministry so that it may be converted into a M…

    Read More

  5. Hydra Travel Writing Classic

    Peel Me a Lotus by Charmian Clift is a Hydra travel writing classic, describing her family’s life on this tiny Greek island near Athens in the 1950s.

    Read More

  6. The Churches of Thessaloniki

    The churches of Thessaloniki are remarkable and include UNESCO World Heritage Monuments, Byzantine masterpieces, and a church dating from the 5th century.

    Read More

  7. Blue Flag: Greece 2nd in the World for its Clean Beaches

    Greece’s beaches are among the world’s cleanest with the region of Halkidiki and the island of Rhodes in the lead this year, according to the 2022 Blue Flag quality award list for beaches, marinas and…

    Read More

  8. Lipsi Municipality Says No to Sunbeds on Island’s Beaches

    The Municipality of Lipsi is saying “no” to sunbeds on the island’s beaches and is encouraging travelers to enjoy eco-conscious summer holidays this year in order to live authentic experiences. “We ar…

    Read More

  9. Ioannina to Launch Food Council to Define its Gastronomic Identity

    The Municipality of Ioannina, the capital of the Region of Epirus, northwestern Greece, has launched action to associate the city’s gastronomy with the destination’s brand-name and identity. “Adding t…

    Read More

  10. Athens National Garden Refurbishment is Underway

    The Athens Municipality recently completed the first phase of a 4.2-million-euro refurbishment project aiming to upgrade the National Garden, one of the Greek capital’s landmark sites. The refurbished…

    Read More