Crete’s Rethymno Proclaimed European Wine City 2018



Harvest of Vidiano variety (Photo courtesy Stelios Klados).
Harvest of Vidiano variety (Photo courtesy Stelios Klados).

Rethymno was officially proclaimed European Wine City – Dyonisos 2018 by Recevin, the European Network of Wine Cities. The network is formed by the national wine associations of eleven member countries and consists of around 800 European cities.

Located on the north coast of Crete, Rethymno has one of the largest vineyard areas in Greece, both in terms of size (20 percent of the national total) and production (950 thousand hectoliters).

The mild Mediterranean climate with gentle winds and sunny summers is positively influenced by the mountains and the sea, forming a unique micro-climate for the vineyards.

Even though it might come as a surprise to be chosen as a European Wine City for Crete, over the more famous and traditional wine area of Heraklion, Mrs. Katerina Xekalou, honorary member of the European Wine City Committee, explains that Rethymno boasts a long-standing history as far as wine is concerned.

Over a hundred years ago, Rethymno used to be the home of a prominent wine festival which would normally last for about twenty days. The festival was usually celebrated in the local Municipal Garden.

This festival, taking place in July, would be one of the most important portray events in the local society, an occasion to dance, wear the best gowns and taste local homemade wines of the region. A moment of the year to see and to be seen.

As years went by, the event gradually fell into decline and was finally stopped during the 90s. Later on, it was replaced by the Cretan Diet Festival, an annual exhibition of local products and related cultural events.

Mrs. Xekalou ends by saying that Rethymno’s designation as European Wine City 2018 will inform the consumers about wine and wine production on the island, but it will also encourage local amateur winemakers to introduce themselves to the market. All this while also placing Crete in the European field of wine production.

In an interview local wine producer Stelios Klados explained how the wine industry in Rethymno is important in the whole Cretan wine landscape. According to him, wine-growing and wine production in Rethymno has been a major resource in the hands of its inhabitants for hundreds of years.

Important local discoveries include an old “winery” in the village of Monastiraki, in Amari and in general, the many presses and the countless findings related to wine-growing in the different archaeological sites of the prefecture confirm the importance of Crete’s wine growing and production.

Mr. Klados also said that the famous Cretan variety, Malvasia, based on four native white varieties, is produced exclusively by vineyards of the prefectures of Rethymnon and Heraklion, and it has been successfully exported throughout Europe for more than three centuries.

Vidiano grape variety (Photo courtesy: Stelios Klados).
Vidiano grape variety (Photo courtesy: Stelios Klados).

Years of foreign domination on the island have resulted in serious damage to the local wine industry. Yet, at the end of last century, an intense movement around the indigenous varieties of Crete resulted in eleven native varieties (seven whites and four reds) being certified and characterized as “Cretan”. The forgotten white variety of Rethymnon, named Vidano, has immediately taken the most prominent place. Vidiano is the most versatile variety of the island, and it has settled the basis for the Cretan Malvasia wine. Today, its reputation has gone beyond the borders of Greece and Europe.

Mr. Klados concludes by saying that in recent years, the rational use of the red Liatiko variety; which has been at the core of vinification in the prefecture for decades, coupled with modern wine making methods, has resulted in the production of modern red wines of high quality.

Today, the vineyards of Rethymnon cover an area of approximately 2,500 hectares counting Vidiano and Liatiko among the main cultivated varieties. These vineyards now produce some of the most important wines of Crete.

Finally, the seven modern wineries of the prefecture aim at a further qualitative development of wine production as well as to the establishment of Rethymno, and Crete in general, as a wine making destination throughout the year.

European Wine City activities include different events, starting on the night of June 30 with a Wine Tasting evening at the Fortezza of Rethymno.