Yes, another Crete vacation post! Don’t hate me. It was a great vacation!
As I wrote in my earlier post, despite traveling with a charter company, we didn’t feel like partaking in any of their group activities (such as 16km hikes through the cliffs in the middle of the day at around 35 degrees), but while reading through the list that they handed to us on the bus transfer from the airport to the hotel, I spotted it: wine tasting. As you know, I love wine tastings, so we were sold pretty quickly!
Crete is one of the very oldest wine growing regions in the world, with evidence for wine making dating back to 1,600 BC. That’s a long time to make wine, so I figured they must know what they’re doing! There are many wineries in Crete, and local house wines are insanely cheap at the restaurants (7€ for a liter, and they are actually totally okay!).
The wine tasting was held at Manousakis Winery, which is located in the small village of Vatolakkos, the birthplace of the winery’s founder, Theodore Manousakis. As a young boy, he and his sisters moved to America, where he - as the only son - had the privilege of going to college. After many years abroad, he came back to Crete, purchased and beautifully restored his childhood home, and called in some of the best wine experts he could find from all over the world to start his own vineyard. The business is today driven by the youngest of his three daughters, Alexandra. Their wines are sold under the brand Nostos Wines - “nostos” means a longing for one’s homeland, which is what compelled Theodore Manousakis to return to Crete. Their logo is made up of three flowers, which stand for Manousakis’ three daughters.
We were shuttled by bus to the village, which is a short drive outside of Chania, where we kept wondering if the bus would get stuck in the small, winding roads up the hills. Luckily, it didn’t, and we were led into this beautiful back yard of “Manousakis mansion”, the founder’s childhood home. It’s an absolutely beautiful house, white with dark wooden windows and lovely details. We were seated around small tables under a pergola grown over with vines. A soft breeze broke the mid-day heat - wine tasting at above 30 degrees is really fun!
After a brief introduction to the history of the vineyard, we were then led right into the belly of the beast: the actual winery. Due to the high heat and humidity in the ground, the actual vineyards are located high up in the Lefka Ori mountain range, at 350m and higher, where it is a bit colder and the steep mountains allow the water to run down through the sandy ground. Harvesting season in Crete is a bit earlier due to it being located so far South, so as we were visiting, the winery, fermentation tanks, and oak barrels were being prepared for the harvest.
Manousakis Winery currently produces 55,000-60,000 bottles a year, but their new winery is built to accommodate the brand’s expansion and will be able to produce over 100,000 bottles a year. Manousakis Winery uses both oak and stainless steel maceration tanks. The wines are aged in oak barrels that are purchased from a French producer and use a mix of French and American oaks to bring different types of flavors to the wines.
Once our trip through the winery was complete, our lovely guide took us back to the main building for the actual tasting of the wines. We sampled five different wines: one white, one rosé, and three different reds. Did I mention that the setting was absolutely gorgeous?
All of the wines are organic, which is pretty cool if you ask me! I should also say a special thanks to our guide and hostess, who indulged my blogger photo taking with absolute patience and sweetness!
The first wine we tasted was the white - Muscat of Spinas, 2014 vintage. Despite its name, it’s not actually a sweet wine, but a classic, dry white. The label represents the Nostos Wines logo of the three flowers. It’s a light and pleasant summer wine, which can be enjoyed on its own or paired with a summer salad or a fish course.
The second wine was the rosé: Nostos Pink, 2014 vintage. It’s made with 50% Syrah and 50% Grenache grapes and macerated with the grape skins only for 3 or 4 hours to give it a lovely, intense salmon color - despite the name, it’s not actually very pink. I’m a fan of rosé, especially in the summer, and I really liked this one. It strikes a nice balance between dry and sweet, and I tasted some citrusy notes, like a pink grapefruit. This would go really well with seafood or grilled fish.
Next up were the reds, starting with the Nostos Grenache, 2012 vintage. The Grenache grape is quite big and high in acidity, giving a rather light and pleasant red wine with notes of blueberries, rosemary, and thyme. Someone at our table called it a “pizza wine”, and I wouldn’t disagree. It goes well with fatty foods, such as pork chops, chicken in a creamy sauce, or a fatty fish like salmon. This wasn’t my favorite of the bunch, but quite enjoyable nonetheless.
The fourth overall wine, and the second red, was probably my favorite (in a close head-to-head with the rosé). It’s named after the youngest Manousakis daughter, Alexandra’s (2012 vintage), because it is produced from the grapes of the youngest vines. It is made from 40% Syrah, 40% Mourvedre, and 20% Grenache. It is of a beautiful, dark red color and has a rich smell, almost like jam. It has a full body, but at the same time isn’t too heavy. It will pair well with grilled meat and spicy foods. We actually brought some home with us!
The last wine we sampled was the Nostos Blend, 2012 vintage, the flagship wine of the Manousakis Winery. It is said to peak in about 4 to 6 years, but can age for around 12 years still. It’s made from a blend of Syrah, Grenache, Mourverde, and Roussane grapes, which gives it a nice complexity. It has a beautiful ruby color and will pair well with a heavier meat dish, such as a beef or lamb stew.
On a side note, this is how much fun I’m having tasting five different wines in the Greek heat:
With the wines, we were also served some bread, alongside their homemade olive oil and coarse salt. That olive oil was amazing - so amazing we actually bought two bottles of it and prayed they wouldn’t break in our suitcases! This has happened with a bottle of sparkling wine before (white, luckily!), and there is just nothing worse than pulling a dripping suitcase off the conveyor belt! The oil did make it home safe, though. Phew!
Another one of my absolute favorite things about the wine tasting were the two ADORABLE winery dogs that were running around. They were both strays that were found in the vineyards and rescued, and they were the cutest! I don’t remember their names, unfortunately, but especially the big, black one really stole my heart. Isn’t he absolutely gorgeous?
All in all, a really fun wine tasting with surprisingly high quality wines - I have to say I expected them to be okay-ish, but was really pleasantly surprised. Manousakis ships to all of Europe (except Norway), and they even have a distributor here in Copenhagen - Oinofilia, a specialized importer of Greek boutique wines located in Nørrebro.
I’m already looking forward to opening the Alexandra’s we brought, and of course getting a hold of some of the other wines (hopefully the rosé!) at the Copenhagen store. Have you tried Cretan wines? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below!
Manousakis Winery, Chania 730 05, Greece - nostoswines.com
Oinofilia, Peter Fabers Gade 44, 2. th., 2200 København N - oinofilia.com