Crete vineyard produces wine from an indigenous grape, saving it from extinction

By Jenny Eagle contact

- Last updated on GMT

Michalakis Estate in Crete has successfully grown and launched nine wines using indigenous grape varieties from the island, saving them from extinction.

Michalakis is a 43-hectare estate near Iraklion and has an altitude of 550 meters on land which originally belonged to Saint George Epanosifi Monastery.

Vidiano white wine

The Estate cultivates its land using sustainable practices with support from Local Food Experts, a social cooperative enterprise and TUI Care Foundation (part of TUI Group) and it recently won a silver medal in the Decanter World Wine Awards for its Vidiano white wine. 

Local Food Experts was formed in 2013 by a group of scientists and field experts in tourism and agriculture and partnered with TUI Austria in 2016 connecting food tourism with sustainable farming projects.

Now Michalakis Estate has used the indigenous white varieties; Dafni, Vilana, Vidiano, Plyto and black varieties; Kotsifali and Mandilari to produce nine wines; Dafni Michalakis Estate, Vilana Michalakis Estate, Vidiano Michalakis Estate, Plyto Michalakis Estate; Variental White, Variental Rose, Variental Red and an organic white and red.

According to Kostas Bouyouris, co-founder, chief projects officer (CPO), Local Food Experts, the company is working with farmers and connecting them with food production facilities so they can have a final product and promote it in the market. 

Greek wine and olive growers currently face stiff competition from Italian and Spanish farmers to earn enough money in the aftermath of the Greek economic crisis between 2007–2008. The crisis led to a series of sudden reforms and austerity measures which saw impoverishment and loss of income and property in the country and revelations that previous data on government debt levels and deficits had been underreported by the Greek government. 

The goal of the TUI Care Foundation, together with Futouris, Local Food Experts and bluecontec is to achieve a sustainable regional development by linking the local agriculture with the tourism sector under the umbrella of sustainability, otherwise known as ‘Crete – first steps towards a sustainable food destination’.

the team 2

Jost Neumann, head of Strategic Programmes, TUI Care Foundation, said farmers on Crete experience difficulty because they are often smallholders with low outputs and find it a challenge to access the market. As a result more farms are having to close their doors.

Sustainable local products

The foundation helps to identify sustainable local products, like varieties of grapes that are unique on Crete and have a long tradition. Then they help promote these products to the local tourism industry to ensure that hotels use the local olive oil in their dishes, restaurants serve locally produced wine, shops sell the local products and they organise tourist excursions to vineyards and olive groves to see what goes on behind the scenes.

Angeliki Iatrou, communications manager, Michalakis Estate, said Cretan indigenous varieties Vidiano, Thrapsathiri, Plyto, Dafni, Muscat of Spina and Malvasia di Candia, are cultivated on the slopes of the Michalakis Estate, together with the classic locals, Vilana, Kotsifali and Mandilaria. 

It has also partnered with a winemaker in Australia to grow the indigenous vines there and see how they react. The results of the trial are expected in three years’ time.

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