From ancient times to today, Dafnes is one of the major wine growing regions of Crete, an island that has seen viticulture thrive through all historical periods. Cretan viticulture was particularly strong during the Roman Times, as indicated by many finds of amphorae and ancient wine presses. It then flourished during the Byzantine period thanks to the association of wine with Christianity. However it was during the Venetian Times when the wines of Crete became internationally known, Malvazia wines being the best-known example.
According to legend, the region of Dafnes got its name from a laurel tree (“daphne”) that grew in the yard of the Holy Belt of the Theotokos church; however the wine produced in that area was already very sought-after all through the Middle Ages and there are many archaelogical finds that prove that wine-making and viticulture have never ceased to constitute one of the major occupations of its inhabitants as, indeed, is the case today.
The climate in this area is typically Mediterranean with vineyards cultivated almost exclusively on slopes and limestone soils, which are the ones the Liatiko variety seems to prefer. In Dafnes Liatiko matures early, in late July, thus its name: “Juliatiko” – Liatiko. The thin-skinned Liatiko berries are rather tannic and maintain high natural acidity levels, but not much color. They seem to be ideal for the production of sweet wines, although yields are invariably low.
Depending on their type (Vin Doux, Vin Doux Naturel and sun-dried) PDO Dafnes sweet wines are characterized by a lovely deep caramel color and concentrated aromas of chocolate and dried fruits. They usually have a full mouth with a velvety texture and a long finish. Although they have been evolving in relative obscurity for the past years, today they are showing signs of a significant revival with many new bottlings coming on to the market.