Crete is known for its impeccable cuisine across the world. This word-acclaimed cuisine, however, is based on two main ingredients the island has been famous for since antiquity: wine and olive oil, and now is the perfect time to get introduced to the history and tradition behind both.
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Cretan wine history
The history of wine in Crete has its roots in ancient times, even before the infamous Homer's Epics. Vineyards have been systematically cultivated in Crete for nearly 4,000 years, with the oldest grape press that counts more than 3,500 of age, having been discovered in the area of Vathipetro. The 3,500-year-old winery, impressive amphorae, huge underground storage space, and relative displays in all Minoan palaces, have revealed not only that wine played a focal role in the everyday life of the locals, but also that Minoans had great expertise in its cultivation.
In modern reality, Cretan wine has for many years won and continues to gain the attention and preference of both Greeks and wine lovers from all across the world. Cretan wines are a valuable reserve of traditional varieties, fully harmonized with the climatic conditions of the island and the Cretan land that has been providing its riches to its inhabitants for thousands of years. The array of local brands, the variety and the uniqueness of the multiple wineries, as well as the Cretan wine tradition, are the reason for the unmatched quality of Crete's wine today and its steady upward trend.
Friends drinking a glass of wine - DeepMeaning/Shutterstock.com
But this tradition would not be able to bear fruit without professional knowledge and technology. Cretan wine producers have taken the new developments and consumer preferences seriously into account. New varieties and new flavors constantly emerge, offering the consumer fine wines that can satisfy all tastes and requirements. Utilizing traditional grape varieties and accumulated centuries of experience, today's Cretan wineries have succeeded in bringing Cretan wine to its rightful place.
Olives through the years
Similarly to the history of wine, Cretans are believed to have collected, ate and used olives for their oil from the Neolithic period, beginning the systematic cultivation and exportation of olive oil years later, during the second millennium BC.
In Minoan Crete, olives and olive oil became the most important component in the economy and life of the people. Olive fruits were found in the Palace of Knossos, one of the top sites in Crete, while the most impressive find being the cup of edible olives found in the Palace of Zakros, retaining their freshness for over 3,500 years. Mind-blowing, right?
Harvesting olive oil - credits: Georgios Tsichlis/Shutterstock.com
Since then, Crete has been famous for its local olive oil, which has become an indispensable part of the heritage, culture, and life of the island.
However, the benefits of olive oil in Crete are not limited to the economy of the island. International studies have shown that the population of Crete has better health and lower mortality rates than all other populations studied.The consumption of olive oil in Crete appears to be much higher than in other parts of the Mediterranean and Europe in general. Olive oil is the only oil extracted by mechanical processes as opposed to chemical oils produced from seed. It thus retains its antioxidants, which are now believed to prevent the oxidative damage that leads to atherosclerosis, various cancers, a host of degenerative diseases and dementia.
If you visit the gorgeous island of Crete, you will soon realize that there is no escaping local wine and olive oil. It’s everywhere and anywhere, on every table and in every meal, and we couldn’t be more glad about it!
Olive oil substitutes butter in almost all Cretan recipes, which results in mouthwatering taste and high nutrition value, while indigenous varieties of wine are also being used in a number of traditional, age-old recipes of Cretan cuisine. Most importantly though, wine is served along with every meal; it is no secret that the locals know how to hold their liquor.
Wine-tasting outdoors - credits: eyeris.work/Shutterstock.com
The cretan dinner
Along with the traditional Greek spirit of ‘raki’, wine marks every celebratory dinner and if you ever find yourself sitting among Cretans, don’t even consider refusing a glass full of the local variety; it is considered to be rude and the locals might take offense. Instead, indulge in its rich flavor and let it lift your spirit. You’re on vacation after all!
If you're interested in experiencing the wine and olive oil tradition in Crete for yourself, don't hesitate to join us for a Cretan wine and olive oil tour in the picturesque city of Chania. Take in the breathtaking beauty of the Cretan landscape by taking a trip to the mountains of Crete, where you’ll be introduced to the different varieties of wine, as well as the luscious olive oil the Cretan land has to offer. What better to explore the beauty of the city and get introduced to its culinary culture?