Day Visit to the Gorgeous Gavalas Winery in Heraklion, Crete

There’s nothing more enjoyable, rewarding, and beautiful than a glass of good wine shared with friends. We experienced it on a day visiting a family-run winery in Peza, near Heraklion, the capital of Crete. Here we discovered many secrets about the wines of Crete.

GAVALAS WINERY

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Wines of Heraklion, Gavalas Crete Wines

Crete is home to one of the largest vineyards in Greece, Cretan vines have a long continuous presence in Europe. Being a core part of everyday life for Cretans, we find wine on the everyday table, in religious feasts as well as in folk and myth.

Nikos Gavalas and his family received us in the village of Vorias to show us their wine-making process, taste some award-winning wines he produces and enjoy a day highlighted by top flavors.

A millennial tradition

Archaeological findings have proven that ever since Minoan times, Crete never ceased to produce wine.

The history of wine on the island has very deep roots, archaeologists discovered traces of the Minoan flourishing economy and their staple products were olive oil, cereals, and wine.

Wine remains a family business, it’s always been so. Not long ago most wines came from domestic vinification, a widespread tradition mainly for private consumption.

A Gift from the Earth: Cretan Wines
The area of Peza, Heraklion.

Different conditions lead to a change, and a new generation of Cretan winemakers have worked hard for the rebirth of local production, however, their still honor that family tradition.

An effort soon rewarded by international recognition, medals, and satisfaction.

They’re doing a superb job, impressive wines are now a distinctive part of the prestigious Cretan cuisine.

A Gift from the Earth: Cretan Wines
Learning on the road… wine production.

New varieties, aromas, and flavors are emerging, satisfying every taste and need.

Making good use of traditional varieties and experience, modern wine producers in Crete have managed to elevate Cretan wine to its rightful position.

Cretan wines

Wines of Crete.
I can’t taste it… but I can smell it!

A real evolution of local wines was the result of quality improvements. But tradition is not enough.

Minas Tsoulfas, who helps Nikos in the management of the Domaine, tells us that a renewed use of traditional varieties has put local wine in its deserved place on the international market.

Certain Cretan wines were already quite famous, as Malvasia. Even today, traditional Cretan wines, like Marouvas or the sweet wine from Muscat of Spina, are still popular.

To that tradition, raki adds to the list with its surrounding ritualism.

A Gift from the Earth: Cretan Wines
Kids are always fascinated by the automatic part of every process… bottling!

Natural & Bio

In 340 hectares Gavalas cultivate Vidiano, Vilana, two white autochthonous varieties, as well as Moscato, Malvasia Aromatica, Chardonnay and Sauvignon. Among the red varieties, local Kotsifali, Mandilari, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. All these turn into about 300.000 bottles a year of 11 different labels.

Nikos Gavalas takes extreme care of his wine. In 2001 his vineyards became part of the organic cultivation system. “Organic products protect the environment from pesticides’ contamination as well as the consumers and us, the cultivators and our children“, he says. A key reason for their success. Not only their labels taste amazing, their grapes too.

In 2004, Gavalas set up a modern winery into the vineyards; besides, having their cultivated land so close to the winery allows them to control the quality of the grapes, further enhancing the product.

Lunch with Cretan friends

After a visit to the factory and cellars, we walked among the vines, tasted some grapes and took delight savoring their labels.

A warm household spirit is very much alive, our kids spent a fantastic time with Niko’s wife helping her in the kitchen (only God knows in which language!!!) to prepare an excellent lunch! An authentic Cretan table with traditional dishes for special occasions. A taste of Cretan hospitality that proved – again – that unique Greek spirit of receiving friends.

Fantastic home-made dishes, grapes, and cheese with an endless choice of their wines. As wine should be tasted… with friends, among chat, pairing it with great delicacies.

We were lucky to taste a new label about to be launched, Speedy Wine, a fresh new red that will undoubtedly be the reason of more satisfaction to Gavalas. As far as whites, their Frangospito is a star. A dry pleasant wine, with an aromatic, intense bouquet of jasmine, lemon blossom, and melon. One of the best whites I’ve tasted in a long time.

Another excellent label is Efivos, a red and fresh surprise.

A Gift from the Earth: Cretan Wines
Visiting their vines. 

Vorias, the god of the northern winds

The domain is the PDO of Peza, in the small village of Vorias. Vorias plays an important role in wine production for Gavalas.

The village, in fact, takes its name after Boreas (Tramontana), a fierce wind from the north which receives a famous name during summer: Meltemi… Those who really love the Greek islands know that Meltemi is far more than the nuisance tourists believe it is.

Meltemi is a blessing bringing relief to the hot Mediterranean summer.

A Gift from the Earth: Cretan Wines
Visit them!

Visit the Domaine

Nikos Gavalas and his family are the perfect examples of Cretan hospitality. Their wines have earned a well-deserved recognition that will definitely keep growing.

You can visit the winery or you can take advantage of OiNotika 2016, the Cretan Wine Fair this weekend in Athens. A perfect opportunity to combine Gavalas’ labels with a selection of local wines that are putting Crete back on the map of prestige, taste, and quality.

Special thanks to the network of Cretan Wine Producers, Wines of Crete.
Thank you to Nikos Gavalas and his family and Minas Tsoulfas for making this day possible! 

Have you tried the wines of Crete? Which one would you like to taste?
Let me know in the comments below!

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GAVALAS WINERY
GAVALAS WINERY
Gabi Ancarola | The Tiny Book

About the Author

Hola! I’m Gabi. Welcome to The Tiny Book – Crete Travel Blog! I moved to Crete to explore the island all year round. I love taking pictures and driving on the mountain roads of Crete. I’m a beach freak and on this island I’ve found heaven on earth!

39 thoughts on “Day Visit to the Gorgeous Gavalas Winery in Heraklion, Crete”

  1. Wine is such an essential part of so many cultures and it’s definitely a key component to Greece – can’t believe that wine has been produced that long! How fun that the kids enjoyed it too — who can’t be amazed at the bottling process 😛

    Reply
    • It’s been produced for ages, indeed amazing!
      Kids love machines, technology and stuff like that more than anything else… but when it was time to taste the grapes, they suddenly returned to loving nature 😉

      Reply
  2. I wouldn’t have thought of Crete as a wine producers but your article actually made my memory go back in time, when I used to read the Legends of Olympus and remember how the gods loved their wine. You had such a wonderful experience, I would love to do it myself too. I love wine tastings, especially when they include a tour of the premises and explain to you how they make their own wine.

    Reply
    • Wine has a deep tradition in the Mediterranean, not many know that the roots are in Crete. The experience was stunning, I enjoyed every moment of it. And you are right, wine tasting, getting to know production and its insights is such a wonderful way to get to know the local culture!

      Reply
  3. Such an interesting article! I wasting Crete two decades ago and at that time I wasn’t interested in wines yet. I definitely need to go back!

    Reply
    • Paola, if you decide to go back I’ll be so happy to welcome you and show you around (in Italian if you wish). It will be our great pleasure and it might be a great opportunity for real blogger collaboration 😀
      Mi piacerebbe un sacco!

      Reply
  4. Wine tours are so much fun and from your post and pictures, it is evident that this is a lovely one too. Now I feel like getting to one myself and while Greece is far away for the time being, I will possibly hunt for one closer to home just to satisfy my thirst 🙂 Thanks for the inspiration.

    Reply
  5. I never tried to drink wine, I do not know how to taste wine. whether like grapes or not. But many say the Wine taste good. But I think the flavor will be different according Wine brand and the place of manufacture.

    Reply
    • If you are not much into wine, but would like to learn, there are very interesting seminars around the Globe. If not, you can never go wrong tasting grapes! 🙂

      Reply
  6. I feel like it’d be super interesting to see the automated bottling process! I love that your kids got involved with the cooking, it seems like it was such a lovely trip to the winery. I think my last trip was to the Niagara Region and would love to check out how Crete does things!

    Reply
    • You would definitely love all the outdoor experiences Crete can offer, hiking trails, underwater activities and more.

      Reply
  7. I might be too late this year, but if they hold that wine fair again next year then I will definitely be on the early lookout for it.

    Reply
    • The wine fair takes place every year, the Cretan Wine Fair is an event I am not missing next year! I hope to see you around…

      Reply
  8. It amazing how the family tradition will still be carried on by the Cretan wine makers. That’s what makes the whole experience of wine tasting even more delightful and different from one another. Anything that’s attached with family tradition has a lot more value added to it.

    Reply
  9. This looks like such fun! I’d never think to bring kids on a wine tour, but it’s such a great idea since the bottling process, the stomping, and exploring the fields would be really cool as a kid.

    Reply
    • Even if they skip the tasting part of the trip, there is so much more to wineries (and any factory) visit for children! There’s so much to learn from production processes but also from crops, harvesting, climate and so on. This is the second tour of a winery we do with the family and kids always love these.

      Reply
  10. Never thought about Crete as a wine producing place.Looks like a fab day of food and wine. I love sweet wines.

    Reply
  11. Crete is a Greek island that I long to visit. I have been blessed to visit other Greek Islands, but never made it to Crete. I love how you have detailed the wine industry over there! Wine making and wineries are truly a pleasure to visit and learn about and I think this will encourage me to consider another trip to Greece very soon.

    Reply
  12. The area of Peza looks absolutely amazing. You can almost imagine a handsome cowboy riding through the hills. It’s always so nice to know that families continue to do their best and pass down their expert knowledge and skill through to the younger generations while still maintaining a keen understanding on how to run a profitable business. Lovely post and what an experience! Would love to try the wines and pair them with all the right dishes.

    Reply
    • The area is so beautiful, and families are really doing a great job both in maintaining the tradition but also innovating to produce excellent labels with the local grapes. Thanks for your comment, it was really a very interesting experience for us.

      Reply
  13. We have couple of wine tours here but I could never participate in one. Reading yours gives a fair idea what to expect.
    If I get an opportunity I will definitely visit. Wonderful captures and I am tempted to sip a glass now. 🙂

    Reply
    • Do take advantage of them if you can! They are always happy to show their products to those interested in wine or in writing about wine. Wine and cuisine tourism is getting stronger and stronger, and it’s a good idea for us to portray them online so as to improve a tourism sector which is expanding and can improve the local activities. Personally, taking home a bottle of wine as a souvenir is much more interesting and helpful to the local economy, than taking back home some object massively produced in another country which does very little to help the locals. This is my personal idea, of course.

      Reply
  14. Unfortunately I was really sick with gastro while in Greece and didn’t get to indulge in wine. Guess I’ll have an excuse to return!

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  15. Very cool! I’ve never gone beyond barefoot wines, maybe it’s time for some classy wine tasting! This reminds me of Napa valley in California.

    Reply
  16. This reminds me so much of here in Vienna, I love a good wine with cheese and I think doing this visit in a winery in Crete would be a great experience. Saving this post.

    Reply
  17. Now here’s the mention of two places, I really want to go to; Vineyard and Greece:) it’s really wonderful to learn about Crete and it’s delicious wines… I hope to visit there soon!

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  18. I enjoyed reading this thorough insight into Crete and my most loved drink! I think it’s lovely that there are family businesses and I can just picture the delicious cheese and grapes with the wine. Delightful!

    Reply
  19. Great, great, great, that someone can focus on a certain section of wine production….to me, that’s how to build an appreciation, as wine is not just a liquid but a personal experience. And so nice that you got to walk among the vines. With Greece’s long, ancient history of wine, no surprise that they can turn out brilliant stuff.

    Reply
    • You are right Tom. There’s so much love and care in what they do I am happy they’re being recognized for the great job they are doing!

      Reply

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