About this WINE
Domaine Lyrarakis, established in 1966, is located in the mountainous commune of Alagni (440 metres above sea-level), south of the city of Heraklion, in Crete. The well-preserved 14th-century stone-presses in the fields around the winery are testament to the area’s long history of grape-growing and winemaking.
The winery is at the forefront of viticultural innovation, championing obscure local varieties such as the ancient white cultivars of Plytó, Dafni, and Vidiano, that it rescued from extinction.
The winery’s extensive portfolio consists of a range of monovarietal wines (Vidiano, Plytó, Mandilari, Assyrtiko, Vilana, Thrapsathiri, Kotsifali) – some from single, “premium” vineyard plots, as well as blends of indigenous and international varieties (such as Syrah, Cabernet and Merlot). Quality remains key and the style emphasises fruit precision, purity and supple texture – placing the wines firmly in the modern camp, yet without flamboyance or exaggeration.
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.
Assyrtiko (aka Assirtiko) [pronounce: A seer' tee ko] is one of Greece's signature white wine grape varieties, used for both dry and sweet wine. It reaches its apogee in the island of Santorini (where it was first planted – currently 70% of the island’s vineyard area). It yields a bone-dry, steely wine that has deliciously concentrated citrus aromas mixed with an earthy, mineral aftertaste evocative of the volcanic soil of Santorini.
Uniquely, the vines are cultivated in low basket shaped crowns, pinned to the ground, for protection from the often fierce winds dominating the climate in Santorini. Coming off the sea, the nocturnal fog brings much needed water to the vines during the dry, hot summer season and this, coupled with the cooling northerly winds provide the right growing conditions for the grape to thrive.
Assyrtiko is highly resistant to most grape diseases and this partly explains why it been widely re-planted throughout appellations in Greece, such as in Paros, Naxos, Crete, and in smaller quantities in Attica, Drama, Epanomi, Halkidiki and Hromitsa, Drama.
Owing to its pronounced mineral profile, Assyrtiko stands up well for blending with grapes such as Sauvignon blanc, Sémillon and the indigenous Greek white grape Malagousia.
These are wines to be enjoyed young or aged; the ideal complement to delicate dishes, fish, seafood and, surprisingly, even grilled meat dishes.
More famously, Assyrtiko is paired with the aromatic Aidani and Athiri white grapes for the production of a distinctive, naturally sweet wine called Vinsanto (derivative of the name Santorini), known since the Byzantine times.
Vinsanto can be naturally sweet or fortified and must be barrel-aged for a minimum of 2 years. The opulently sweet Vinsantos display a deep amber colour, a thrilling nose of crème brûlée’, chocolate and dried apricots and a palate of dates and dried figs.