Touring the Lyrarakis Winery on Crete

Crete

The Cretan wine business is booming, a fact that was recognised recently by Wine Enthusiast magazine. It nominated Crete on its shortlist for Wine Region of the Year, along with Champagne, Provence, Sonoma County and the eventual winner, Oregon's Willamette Valley. Illustrious company indeed.

The View from the Lyrarakis Winery on CreteThe View from the Lyrarakis Winery

On a tour of one of the island's biggest wineries, Lyrarakis, we learn one of the reasons why from our guide, Eva Gouvianaki. 'There are lots of parents who started wineries,' she says, 'and now their children are the second generation. They are educated as oenologists, whereas the parents learned simply by doing it. Right now we have specialists, and the wine is better. The parents started and the children took it further. But here we believe in meraki – it means if you're going to do something you want to do it with passion.'

Vines at the Lyrarakis Winery on CreteLyrarakis Vines

Lyrarakis was founded by brothers Manolis and Sotiris Lyrarakis in 1966 and they made an unusual decision which turned out to be farsighted, and another reason for the current success of Cretan wines. They concentrated on growing two local grape varieties, plyto and dafni, which no-one else was using to make wine and which might well now be extinct if not for the Lyrarakis brothers. 

Bottles at the Lyrarakis Winery on Crete

Today there are over 50 wineries on Crete, many of them growing familiar imported grape varieties like syrah and merlot, but Lyrarakis and others prefer their native varieties like plyto, dafni, vidiano, vilana, mandilari and kotsifali. They make distinctive wines that are part of the terroir of Crete, the largest and most southerly of the Greek islands.

Bottles at the Lyrarakis Winery on Crete

Before we tour the winery and taste the wines, Eva drives us out to see another of the Lyrarakis brothers' legacies, the Karoula wine press. Crete is home to many ancient wine presses, including the oldest known press in the world, some 3500 years old. The Karoula press dates from the 14th century and is carved out of the area's natural rock.

Ancient stone wine press at the Lyrarakis Winery on CreteThe Karoula Wine Press

'It was a communal press,' Eva explains, 'where everyone would bring their grapes to tread them, and the juice would flow down the slope. There was a second pressing nearby. Everyone knew that the press was here, but one of the founding brothers thought it was important to protect it so he reported it to the authorities to help preserve it for future generations. Those are our vines behind the press, the plyto grapes. At one time this whole valley would have been filled with vines.'

Wine barrels at the Lyrarakis Winery on Crete

Cretan wines have a distinguished history. Homer reported that they were loved throughout the known world. The Minoans exported wine to Egypt, which is about 400 miles away across the Libyan Sea. In the 15th and 16th centuries, Cretan wines were exported to Venice, where they were rated very highly indeed.

Today Lyrarakis, the biggest and oldest winery in the Iraklion region, produces a million litres of wine a year, half of which is exported to the USA, Japan, China and several other countries. In the UK the importers are Berry Brothers and Rudd, who have supplied wine to the royal family since the reign of King George III.

Wine-tasting at the Lyrarakis Winery on Crete

Lyrarakis is now run by the second generation, the five children of Manolis and Sotiris Lyrarakis. As we enter the tasting room and impressive restaurant, a young girl enters and skips through the room.

Wine-tasting at the Lyrarakis Winery on Crete

'And here comes the third generation,' Eva laughs, as we sit down to taste the wines, and pair them with cheese and other Cretan delicacies. We try the dafni, which has hints of rosemary and lavender - and which you can buy in M&S. Their Legacy rosé is unusually dark for a rosé, almost a plum colour, while the intensely delicious Malvasia of Crete dessert wine uses a blend of plyto, dafni, vidiano and vilana grapes which are dried in the sun for nine days to concentrate the sugars.

Bottles at the Lyrarakis Winery on Crete

We also try their Symbolo wine, a complex and fruity wine, heavy on the tannin. It's a flagship wine, only made when the grapes are excellent, and last produced in 2012. The good news is… 2016 was an excellent vintage on Crete, making 2017 the perfect year for wine-lovers to visit.

Price list of wines for sale at the Lyrarakis Winery on Crete

All Photos (c) Mike Gerrard

See our YouTube video about another aspect of our visit to the Lyrarakis Winery:

Visiting Lyrarakis
The author visited the Lyrarakis Winery as part of a special food and wine tour organised by www.GoCrete.net. See also the Lyrarakis Winery website, and Wines of Crete.

Staying Nearby
Greece Travel Secrets stayed in Apostoli at the Organic Orgon Farm, in one of their beautifully renovated traditional guesthouses, about 8 miles from the Lyrarakis Winery.

The Kalimera Archanes renovated stone houses are in the village of Archanes, about 7 miles from the Lyrarakis Winery, and a similar distance from Iraklion Airport. They can be booked through Sunvil Holidays.

Where to Stay on Crete




See some of our other Crete pages...

  • Life as a Waiter on Zakynthos

    Life as a waiter on Zakynthos tells what it was like for travel writer Mike Gerrard to work in a Greek restaurant, the Mantalena in Alykanas.

  • Eco-Tourism Accommodation on Crete

    The Dalabelos Estate offers luxury eco-tourism accommodation on Crete in the hills near Rethymnon with its own farm, vineyard and olive groves.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Goules Taverna Crete

    The Goules Taverna in Goulediana, south of Rethymnon, has been called one of the best tavernas on Crete and Greece Travel Secrets recently visited them.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Art Courses on Crete

    Greece Travel Secrets visits Visual Arts Crete who offer accommodation and run art courses at their home and studio in the village of Kastellos near Rethymnon.

  • Making Rakomelo on Crete

    Greece Travel Secrets visits Crete and learns about making rakomelo from Jorgos Kourmoulis in Agouseliana.

  • 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.

  • Chania, in Western Crete

    Chania is the main city in Western Crete with a lovely setting and a beautiful harbour as well as several museums.

  • 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.

  • Crete

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

  • Crete Olive Oil Tour

    For a Crete olive oil tour Greece Travel Secrets visits Biolea, one of the few olive oil factories on Crete that you can visit.

  • Crete Festivals and Events

    Crete festivals and events include Carnival Easter, Whitsun, Christmas, many other religious feast days and public holidays.

  • Cretan Writers and Artists

    The most famous Cretan writers and artists include the painter El Greco and the author of Zorba the Greek, Nikos Kazantzakis.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Best Things to Do on Crete

    The best things to do on Crete and top things to see include the Samaria Gorge, the Minoan Palaces at Knossos and Phaistos, the towns of Chania and Rethymnon.

  • Best Crete Hotels

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

  • Best Cocktail Bars in Athens

    Two of the best cocktail bars in Athens, MoMix Kerameikos and The Clumsies, are making creative cocktails using that most Greek of Greek spirits, Metaxa.

  • Best Beaches on Crete

    Greece Travel Secrets chooses ten of the best beaches on Crete including the beautiful beaches at Vai and Elafonisi.

  • Battle of Crete

    The Battle of Crete during World War 2 inspired several books and took place with an airborne invasion over Maleme on the north coast of the island.

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. Kos on its Way to Become a Greek Biking Destination

    The comparative advantages of Kos as an emerging biking destination were presented by Deputy Transport Minister Michalis Papadopoulos during an event held recently on the island by local authorities…

    Read More

  2. Covid-19: Greece Still in CDC’s ‘Very High’ Travel Risk Category

    The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is warning Americans to avoid travel to some 75 countries, including Greece, after adding on Monday, Germany and Denmark to its “Level Four: Very High” Covid-1…

    Read More

  3. Greek Mountain Destinations Aching for Bookings

    The second winter season in the pandemic finds hotels in Greece’s striking mountain villages in a fragile state.

    Read More

  4. What to Eat at Syntagma – Petraki Street

    Petraki Street, near Syntagma Square, has everything a foodie wants, whether you’re looking for a good wine bar, cocktail bar, bakery, pastry shop, or restaurant worth visiting again and again.

    Read More

  5. Bringing Ancient Olympia Back to Life

    A new digital revival project, "Ancient Olympia: Common Grounds," harnesses artificial intelligence to bring the ancient sanctuary back to life like never before.

    Read More

  6. Athens Tops Europe’s Meeting Destinations Ranking, Says AmEx Report

    Athens, Greece’s capital city, ranks first in the top 5 meeting destinations in Europe in the 2022 Global Meetings and Events Forecast, the 11th annual report produced by American Express Meetings & E…

    Read More

  7. Covid-19: Greece Bans the Unvaccinated from More Indoor Places

    Adults in Greece not vaccinated against the coronavirus (Covid-19) will be banned from entering more indoor spaces, including cinemas, theaters, museums and gyms as of Monday, November 22, according t…

    Read More

  8. South Aegean Islands Introduced to Luxury Wedding Planners

    The South Aegean islands were introduced to some of the world’s leading wedding planners during the 7th Destination Wedding Planners (DWP) Congress 2021, that took place on Rhodes earlier in November…

    Read More

  9. Greece Promotes Western Macedonia as Top Wine Tourism Destination

    Western Macedonia, its wineries and wines are spearheading a far-reaching tourism ministry campaign to establish Greece as a leading wine tourism destination, said Deputy Tourism Minister Sofia Zachar…

    Read More

  10. A foodie guide to Thessaloniki

    Welcome to our foodie guide to Thessaloniki, where you’ll get to know all about what and where to eat in one of the best culinary getaways in Greece.

    Read More