Crete may be dominated by red grapes, but Vilana is the undisputed queen of white varieties of the island. Tasting Vilana is tasting the core white wine style of this historic and celebrated region. It is used mainly for producing dry fresh whites, but ambitious producers are also releasing small quantities of premium oak-aged bottlings.
The hallmarks of Vilana wine are a moderately deep yellow color, medium intensity of aromas, and flavors showing notes of lemon, orange, pear, flowers (like jasmine), and herbs. On the palate it is fresh, light in body yet broad in shape, with soft acidity and medium alcohol. Vilana is found mainly in the regions of Heraklion and Lasithi. The best examples from Heraklion are produced out of PDO Peza and must be pure Vilana, while Lasithi’s production excels in the specific area of PDO Sitia—where Vilana is blended with Thrapsathiri. The abundance of Vilana allows for experimentation by most growers, and the variety can be found in many multivarietal wines, most notably but not exclusively with Malvasia, Muscat or international varieties.
Vilana is a straightforward, thirst-quenching white wine for a warm summer day—soft, appealing, and easy to drink. The character of the wine is ideal for a meal consisting of a large number of different, simple, and sometimes contrasting dishes—a typical way of enjoying food for Cretans. Vilana wines are usually made to be consumed within three years from harvest, but some barrel-aged versions are proving to develop well for five years or more.