Lyrarakis Winery Crete: Wine Tasting in Heraklion

Wine, 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 sea level. An area with an ideal microclimate. Cooled by the northern breeze of the Aegean and protected from the hot African 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 led the way to a place I’ve longed to visit, Lyrarakis Winery, for wine tasting in Crete.

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Lyrarakis Winery Crete

Those interested in wine tourism and local tastes must look at Crete’s original vineyard. Why not start with a visit to Lyrarakis Winery in Heraklion?

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Land and Values: Everything about Lyrarakis

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

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 will 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 Crete’s most impressive agricultural areas, with a longstanding heritage in wine production.

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.

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

Lyrarakis’ cellars store the same values of their wines: authentic and connected with the indigenous culture.

Following principles of sustainability and featuring a solid relationship with the local community.

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

Walking among the fields, bunches of grapes under the Cretan sun promise a fantastic upcoming harvest. A young man joins us in silence, letting Anna explain more.

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 Mission: Rescuing Native Varieties

Melissaki wine
  • There are four PDO-level appellations: 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.

Right from the start, Lyrarakis Winery has been committed to the rescue of native grape 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.

They planted a promising native grape seven years ago. This can now be considered a new local variety.

Wine tasting Lyrarakis Crete
Learning about local varieties.

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 two ancient Cretan varieties, Dafni and Plyto. A third “vineyard treasure”, the indigenous Melissaki, has been recently added to the list.

Check out this Sommelier’s Guide to Cretan Wines for Wine Lovers

Wine Tasting in Crete at Lyrarakis: Experience, Surprises, and Varieties

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.

Tasting white and rosé

At a very long table, set in 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, has aromas of herbs, such as the bay leaf, rosemary, and lavender.

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 rescued variety that brings a 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 that comes from aged vines, about 850 meters above sea level. Used to sweet Liatiko labels, this dry wine is unforgettable.

Next up, 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 because they help spot potential harm before they affect vines.

Tasting reds and a few extras

The remarkable concentration of stone in the local soil helps retain crucial 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 surprising wine that I took a bottle home with me. This local variety is also known because it lacks 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 with a few drops of Agourida.

Agourida is nothing but the simple green grape juice from the first press. A traditional replacement for lemon in salads in past decades is 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 setting down on the horizon, I couldn’t think of a better glass of wine to end this wonderful day at Lyrarakis Winery.

Visit Lyrarakis Winery Crete

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 – and March, it’s better to get in touch via e-mail since, during that period, visits are subject to availability.

There are dozens of excellent wineries in Crete and wine tasting can be a never-ending experience on the island.

You can check other wineries in Crete by reaching the local Wine Association, Wines of Crete.

Others we have visited are Klados Winery (in Rethymnon) and Fragospito Winery (the former Gavalas Winery) (from Heraklion).

Read more about Crete

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More resources to enhance your Crete adventure

Start by checking out my ultimate guide to planning your trip to Crete, packed with helpful essential information. Explore the articles on prices in Crete, common mistakes to avoid, and insider secrets for an unforgettable experience.

Use this comprehensive Crete packing list to ensure you have everything you need. Explore the best places to visit on Crete Island, discover my tours and activities, be amazed at Crete’s incredible beaches, and check out the best times to experience its beauty.

If you are exploring specific areas like Heraklion or Rethymnon, I’ve got detailed guides to help you make the most of your time.

Suggested accommodation in Heraklion

No time to read all my accommodation guides? Check out these hotels in the city:

More useful travel resources

  • Check out all the digital travel guides I’ve specifically written about Crete. They are affordable and practical to check from your mobile.
  • Discover Cars is the engine I use to find a rental car on the island.
  • To book adventures, tours, and cultural experiences, I recommend Get Your Guide.

About me:

Gabi Ancarola | The Tiny Book

Gabi Ancarola

I have lived in Chania, Crete, since 2016. As a local, I have an intimate knowledge of the island. I host culinary and concierge tours and experiences in Crete and write about the island for several travel media. During the last five years, I have helped many travelers plan the perfect holiday in Crete. I co-authored DK Eyewitness Top 10 Crete and had more glasses of frappe than any regular person could ever handle.

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