Lyrarakis Winery: Wine Tasting in Crete

Alagni is an inland village of Crete, a mountainous place in the appellation area of Peza, Heraklion. It lies on sandy limestone soil, about 500 meters above the sea level. An area with an ideal microclimate. Cooled by the northern breeze of the Aegean and protected from the African hot winds by the mountain. Soon after the hustle of the capital, endless fields extend along the road as I drive through the landscape. Half an hour later, the wine trail signposts lead the way to a place I’ve been longing to visit, Lyrarakis Winery for wine tasting in Crete.

Those interested in wine tourism and local tastes must take a look at the original vineyard of Crete. Why not starting with a visit to Lyrarakis Winery, in Heraklion?

Lyrarakis winery

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CRETE ESSENTIALS
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Check these top picks

Where to stay in Crete: For a boutique experience, Casa Delfino in Chania or Avli in Rethymnon (luxury). Mrs. and Mr. White (affordable luxury) is a gorgeous resort near Chania. Budget trip around the island? Check Archipelagos in Rethymnon or Sofia Hotel in Heraklion. Hostel type? No problem! The best options are So Young Hostel in Heraklion and Cocoon City Hostel in Chania.

Top-rated tours in Crete:
Boat Cruise to Balos Lagoon & Gramvousa from Kissamos Port (Bestselling tour from US$ 29.65).
Samaria Gorge Trek: Full-Day Excursion from Rethymno (Another best-seller, from US$ 36.73).
From Ierapetra: Boat Cruise to Chrissi Island (From US$ 27.25).
Day Trip to Elafonisi Island from Chania (From US$ 41).
Knossos Palace: Pre-Booked E-Ticket & Smartphone Audio Tour (Check Knossos at your own pace, from US$ 19.34).
Spinalonga Boat Trip from Elounda Port (From US$ 14.50).

Touring Crete by car? By far the best way to discover the island. I use both Discover Cars and Rentalcars.com to reach far off places where my old jalopy won’t take me.

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Three items you need in Crete: Don’t forget your daypack for beach days and excursions. Add a good map, the Lonely Planet Guide, or get a copy of my own guide to West Crete!

Need more info? Head to this page with my favorite resources or join my Facebook Group!

Land and values

I park under generous olive trees and walk past a yard of aromas. Oregan, rosemary, mint, lavender, and the local malotira are a prelude to the more intense fragrances I’m about to experience. After a warm welcome with a glass of wine, the sommelier, Anna Sofoulaki, greets me with a map of the fields. She guides me to a garden from where it’s possible to see the extension of the cultivated fields. We’re in one of the most impressive agricultural areas of Crete, with a longstanding heritage in wine production.

A visit to the vineyard with Anna, the wine specialist form Lyrarakis Winery
A visit to the vineyard with Anna, the wine specialist form Lyrarakis Winery

In 1966, two brothers set the roots of the company, now run by the second generation of winemakers. They have added academic knowledge to the passion already permeating the family business.

It is soon clear that the cellars store the same values of the wines they produce: authentic and in strong connection with the indigenous culture. Following principles of sustainability and featuring a solid relationship with the local community.

Roses are used in the vineyard to keep an eye on the health of the vines.
Roses are used in the vineyard to keep an eye on the health of the vines.

Walking among the fields, bunches of grapes under the Cretan sun are a promise for a good upcoming harvest. A young man joins us in silence, letting Anna continue with her explanation.

Later on, he would follow us into the cellars too, still not saying much, but with the extreme confidence of someone feeling at home. He’s Bart Lyrarakis, CEO of the company.

Lyrarakis Crete -Wine selection - The vineyards - The cellar.
Wine selection – The vineyards – The cellar.

Lyrarakis mission: Rescuing native varieties

Of all the things I learn through the visit, one thing pleasantly surprises me. As a newcomer to the local wine experience, I’ve studied hard to, among other things, recall as a mantra that in Crete:

  • There are four PDO-level appellations which are Peza, Arhanes, Dafnes, and Sitia.
  • Six more generic regional appellations complement the previous four (Chania, Rethymno, Lasithi, Kissamos, Heraklion, and Crete itself).
  • And that there are eleven indigenous varieties… Well, not anymore.
Melissaki wine

One of the distinctive activities of the winery, right from the start, has been the commitment to rescue native varieties. Lyrarakis has always been part of what they define as a painful process of a complex and evolving nature. One of the winery’s pride dates back to 1992, a year marking the rescue of Plyto and Dafni, bottled and distributed four years later.

After learning this story, it’s not surprising to hear that they planted a promising native grape seven years ago. This can now be considered a new local variety. Melissaki, a Greek name clearly recalling honey, is surprising Cretan wine lovers. This piece of news, in my modest opinion, has not yet been spread enough as it should be.

The Lyrarakis family has revived of two ancient Cretan varieties, Dafni and Plyto while a third “vineyard treasure”, the indigenous Melissaki, has been recently added to the list.

Wine tasting Lyrarakis Crete
Learning about local varieties.

Wine tasting in Crete at Lyrarakis: Experience, surprises, and varieties

Tasting white and rosé

At a very long table of the cozy tasting room, the experience includes local cheese, sundried tomatoes, olives, and rusks. Perfectly matching the following labels.

We started tasting the winery points of pride: Plyto (2016), with aromas of citrus and pear, and a pleasant aftertaste. And Dafni, a well-known rarity among local wines, with aromas of herbs, such as bay leaf, rosemary and a note of lavender.

Tasting wine, local Cretan graviera cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, and Cretan rusks. Lyrarakis winery
Tasting wine, local Cretan graviera cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, and Cretan rusks.

The other white coming along is Vidiano, also known as the Chardonnay of Crete, produced with the technique of batonnage, a method used to provide balance, creating a fuller taste. Right after, we focus on the newcomer, Melissaki, or bee wine. A forgotten variety that brings a completely new experience with hints of herbs (I feel thyme, my favorite herb), white fruits, and a pleasant recall of Cretan honey.

The Kendros Liatiko (2016), with apricot, peach, honey, and bergamot aromas is probably one of the best experiences during the session.  A clear rosé coming from very old vines, about 850 meters above the sea level. Used to sweet Liatiko labels, this dry wine is unforgettable.

Next, comes a darker rosé, almost a claret in color and unique in taste. It’s the Legacy Rosé (Syrah and Kotsifali), fruity and incredibly aromatic.

Unripe grapes and next to them, Agourida. They plant roses next to grapes as they help spot potential harms before they affect vines.
Unripe grapes and next to them, Agourida. They plant roses next to grapes as they help spot potential harms before they affect vines.

Tasting reds and a few extras

The huge concentration of stone in the local soil helps retain important quantities of water. This comes as an aid when harvesting vines without irrigation. Mandilari, from the Plakura Vineyard, is one of the results. Deep red color, intense yet fresh, with superb aromas of red fruit.

Karnari Kotsifali (2012) was such a surprise that I took a bottle home with me. This local variety is also known because it lacks in color. The ruby color of Lyrarakis Kotsifali teaches us that winemaking is the art of the impossible. As far as taste, it’s spicy and with aromas of red fruits, warm and lightly tannic.

Zazazu is considered to be the first sparkling wine in Crete
Zazazu is considered to be the first sparkling wine in Crete

The afternoon ends with a glass of Zazazu Demi-Sec (Vidiano, Vilana, and Moscato Spinas), the first local sparkling wine. Ideal alone, or to produce explosive cocktails, like the one Anna mixes adding a few drops of Agourida.

Agourida is nothing but the simple green grape juice from the first press. A traditional replacement for lemon in the salads of the past, now bottled and sold with success.

However, that’s not all, Malvasia di Creta (sundried Plyto, Dafni, Vilana, and Vidiano) is the last reward. The combination of probably the best varieties of the island results in this nectar of rich aromas, with an intensely fruity and rich taste that reminds me of childhood cakes.

Just as the sun was getting down on the horizon, I can’t think of a better glass of wine to end this wonderful day at Lyrarakis Winery.

Visit Lyrarakis

Lyrarakis Winery has wine tasting facilities in Alagni, (Peza, Heraklion). To reach the facilities follow these coordinates 35°11’05.6″N 25°12’29.6″E; or even better, visit their website to customize your own degustation package, or splurge and choose their Premium Cellar Experience.

Important details to visit

The visit lasts about 1 hour and a half.
The wine tasting facilities are open from April to October, from Monday to Saturday (11 am – 7 pm).
The winery is closed on Sundays.
If you’re interested in a visit between November – March, it’s better to get in touch via mail, since during that period, visits are subject to availability.

There are dozens of excellent wineries in Crete, wine tasting can be a never-ending experience on the island. You can check other wineries in Crete by getting in touch with the local Wine Association, Wines of Crete. Other we have visited are Klados Winery (in Rethymnon) and Gavala Crete Wines (from Heraklion).

Are you ready to explore Crete? It can be the trip of your lifetime. Get in touch if you need extra help to plan your itinerary. Or check this guide if you’re touring West Crete. You’ll find detailed info about where to go, what to see, where to eat, and more!

Want more? Join my Private Facebook Group to connect with like-minded travelers who love Crete as much as you do!

Coming to Crete any time soon? These resources will help you organize the trip!

Start by reading these helpful tips to plan a trip to Crete, which covers details such as when it’s best to travel, what documents you need, or how to get a SIM card. Check family holidays in Crete if you travel with kids.

To visit Crete’s heavenly beaches, check my guide to the best beaches in Crete. Discover what region is best to stay or check what things you can do in Crete.

For updated information about the island, join my private group on Facebook, or get my West Crete Guide!

Finally, make sure you’ve got everything you for a hassle-free trip!

I never move around Crete without my Osprey backpack, a sturdy, light, roomy, and super comfortable travel partner I just love. To visit villages, sites, and museums instead, I carry this little crossbody bag.

When driving around, I pack my Crete Michelin map and my Nikon D7200. In Summer I also carry good sunscreen lotion, the sun on the island can be pretty aggressive.

Airfares to Crete can change from one airline to the other, make sure to compare prices with a powerful search engine. Planes are fast, but nothing like the romantic experience of traveling by sea in Greece. Direct Ferries has great ticket deals to reach Crete from Athens or to visit other Greek islands.

If I need to book accommodation, I personally use different search engines. Booking.com and Hotels.com are my go-to options.

Sometimes, the best way to get to know a place and make the most of your time on Crete is to join an organized tour. GetYourGuide has top-rated tours to save time and money. From cooking lessons to archaeological site tours, skip-the-line attractions, and even airport transfer!

Do you have everything you need? Then you just have to get ready to discover Crete, Greece’s most beautiful island!

  • Check these posts for more information!

To read more about Crete’s fascinating past, check this article to discover the most stunning archaeological sites in Crete. There are also beautiful monasteries to visit on the island. Don’t miss this article about the island of Spinalonga, while in the same region there are many gorgeous villages to explore.

A trip to Crete is a good opportunity to learn more about Greek mythology, why not checking the Cave of Zeus or the fantastic seaside caves of Matala and the Minoan Palace of Phaistos. Finally, in the region of Rethymnon, a day trip to Arkadi Monastery will teach you tons about the Turkish occupation of the island.

Have you ever tasted the wines of Crete?
Let me know in the comments below!

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Lyrarakis Winery, The Wine Tasting Experience of Crete
Lyrarakis Winery, The Wine Tasting Experience of Crete
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!

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