Crete is home to approximately 15 per cent of the nation’s vineyards, the lion’s share being in the prefecture of Heraklion. The 3 main areas of Heraklion are Peza, Archanes and Daphnes.
The vineyards of Peza stretch sinuously on hilly terrain of varying inclines and exposures around the plain of Peza, in Heraklion district, at altitudes of up to 2,300 feet. Here, the red varieties of Kotsifali and Mandilaria are cultivated in deep calcareous soil. The vineyards of Peza are best known, however, for the production of whites from the local Vilana variety. It is mainly cultivated in the plain around the village of Peza but the vvineyards at higher altitudes, where ripening is more slow and gentle, yield more aromatic wines. The area, with its modern, linear plantings, has the fastest pace of growth among Crete’s vine growing areas.
The vineyards of Archanes are located at short distances between the vineyards of Peza and Dafnes, approximately in the center of Crete, just south of the city of Heraklion. They host the local red variety of Kotsifali, with a high alcoholic content and an exceptionally aromatic character, and the Aegean variety of Mandilaria, which is rich in color and tannins. The vineyards of Archanes grow in limey-clayey, quite compact soil, on slopes of mainly eastern exposure, and at altitudes ranging from 1,000 to 1,300 feet. The cultivation methods are mainly traditional but linear formations, of sparser planting densities, are also present.
The vineyards of Dafnes are situated on the northeastern slopes of Mount Idi, west of Archanes, at altitudes ranging from 1,000 to 1,600 feet on semi-mountainous terroirs. The variety cultivated is the red Liatiko, a local, pale-hued cultivar suitable for the production of excellent sweet wines. Liatiko is rare in that it ripens quite early—as early as late July— hence its name which derives from the Greek word for July. The vineyards of Dafnes grow in soil lighter than in the nearby areas of Peza and Archanes, sandy, often gravelly and of low fertility. Certain international cultivars have also settled successfully.