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2013 Domaine Lyrarakis, Okto Red, Crete, Greece
Scores and Reviews
Domaine Lyrarakis, established in 1966 is located in the mountainous commune of Alagni (440m), south of the city of Heraklion, in Crete. The well-preserved 14th century stone-presses in the fields around the winery are a testament to the area’s long history of grape-growing and wine making.
The winery is at the forefront of viticultural innovation: It has been long championing obscure local varieties, such as the ancient white cultivars of Plyto, Dafni, Vidiano that were brought back from extinction and have since garnered much acclaim for their quality.
The extensive portfolio consists of a range of monovarietal wines (Vidiano, Plyto, Mandilari, Assyrtiko, Vilana, Thrapsathiri, Kotsifali) – some from single, “premium” vineyard plots, as well as blends of indigenous with international varieties (Syrah, Cabernet, Merlot). Quality remains keynote and the style emphasises fruit precision, purity and supple texture , placing the wines firmly in the modern camp, yet without flamboyance or exaggeration.
A distinctive rendition of the ancient sweet wine of Crete, Malvasia, completes the Estate’s extensive range. The wine is based on sun-dried Plyto, Dafni, Vidiano and Vilana and is hence a multi-varietal blend rather than a single varietal wine, which according to the Lyrarakis’ family, reflects closely ancient winemaking traditions in the island.
Lyrarakis estate has built on the traditions of the region, taking their wines in a more modern direction while retaining their sense of place.
Read Tom Cannavan's review of Lyrarakis winery: Domaine Lyrarakis has led the wine revolution on the island of Crete
The viticultural bastion of Kotsifali red wine grape is the island of Crete. It is mainly grown in the Heraklion Prefecture and sporadically on the Cyclades islands. Kotsifali single varietal wines bear all the hallmarks of traditional “Southern Mediterranean” wines: low in colour, relatively high in alcohol, with smooth tannins and soft acidity. Kotsifali finds in the other major red grape variety of Crete, Mandilari (aka Mandilaria) the perfect complementary blending partner:
In addition to augmenting Kotsifali ‘s tannin content and tempering its alcoholic strength, Mandilari deepens the colour in wine blend and makes it more ageworthy. Crete’s major Appellations of Peza and Arhanes actually stipulate that Kotsifali should be blended with Mandilaria (typically on a 80/20 to 60/40 proportions)
Growers in Crete, locked for years into cooperative economies & practices, have been slow to explore the potential of low-yield farming. Those who moved on to apply modern vineyard practices have been rewarded with superior wines. Domaine Lyrarakis is one of the best exponents of the variety, blending it with Mandilari, and with Syrah in two different bottlings.
All showcase the great potential of the grape in both modern and traditional styles. Indeed the current wine-making style of Kotsifali emphasises streamlined, polished tannins and reflects the desire to yield, fruity, forward-drinking , graceful and subtle wines.
For anyone wanting to get to grips with the soul of red wine in Crete, Kotsifali is the prime example.
Crete is the steam engine of Greek wine production, with 50,000ha and one bottle out of every five in the country. The influence of co-operatives is still strong, in contrast to the mainland Greece, where boutique wineries and independent producers have already had a revolutionising presence over the past two decades.
Wine styles have evolved from the heady, rustic, alcoholic, slightly oxidative reds of the past, to fresh, clean, forward drinking red and whites, thanks to modern techniques in both the vineyard and the winery and the development of new plantings in higher, cooler altitudes.
Local Grape Varieties
A significant white in Crete is Vilana, mainly in the appellations of Peza and Sitia. At high altitudes, it can give refreshing, dry, peppery and floral whites.
Other niche, traditional varieties include the dry aromatic whites Plyto and Dafni, saved from extinction by the pioneering Lyrarakis winery.
Kotsifali, the signature red grape of Crete, can be aromatic and high in alcohol. Mandilaria makes the perfect blending partner enhancing tannins and colour. It is often married together with Kotsifali, the latter may be also vinified with Syrah.
Another local speciality (especially in the east region of Sitia) is the red Liatiko, similar to the Aglianico. It can be vinified into delicious, dry reds, but the most promising way forward is sweet wines from sun-dried grapes.
Malvasia di Candia represents both a grape variety and an ancient wine style from Crete with its heydays dating back to the Venetian occupation of the island. This variety gives wines with rich aromas, intense grape & floral flavours. Its comtemporaty incarnation comes with “Malvasia di Candia Aromatica” clone in Crete.
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