Liatiko 2022, Lyrarakis

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This Liatiko wine, one of the queens of Cretan grape varieties, with its aromas of dark cherry and wild berries, is produced from vineyards at 650m altitude – that's more than 2,000 feet!! Intense, balanced with fine tannins and an expressive juicy finish, it pairs with pizza and pasta or even seafood in red sauces. If you're a fan of lighter-bodied wines that still have some good intensity, this wine is for you!

About the Winery

After Sicily and Sardinia, Crete is the largest of the Mediterranean’s innumerable islands. Rising mightily out of the sea north of Egypt and south of mainland Greece, it has four mountain ranges and correspondingly distinct geological structures—UNESCO has designated two sites of geological significance—dominated by limestone. As befits the birthplace of Zeus, the island has a scorching sun and an endless wind. During the Bronze Age, it hosted the Minoan Civilization, noted for its city-states, architecture and administration, to say nothing of far-flung trade. For as long as wine has been made, it has been made here (even during occupations by tee-totaling Ottomans and Moors). Only in 1913 did Crete become part of Greece.

In 1966 Bart Lyrarakis’ father and uncle founded their winery. Their timing wasn’t exactly fortuitous, given that in the next decade phylloxera finally found its way to the island. This necessitated wide-spread replanting, with many growers favoring French over local varietals, and ushered in a period of dominance by cooperatives. Lyrarakis (lear-a-rack-kies) itself didn’t begin to estate bottle its wine until 1992.

The heart and soul of what Lyrarakis is doing is based on a series of vineyards, bottled in what they call their “single area” line of wines. These range from Kedros in the central western heights to the high-altitude Vóila Plain in the far east. There are currently eleven of these special sites, each labeled by the name of the grape followed by the name of the site, and each site is outlined on its label by colored topography.

Lyrarakis has rescued three varietals from obscurity and almost certain extinction from phylloxera: Dafni (DNA traces of which have been found in Minoan wine vessels), Plytó, and Melissaki. No one else on the island is currently making wine from these grapes.

In the cellar, the touch is light, and tailored to each varietal and site; Myriam de-stems grapes, or uses whole berry, or whole cluster, or combinations thereof. Her white wines finish with refreshingly low octanes, and they’re as much about texture and salinity as about overt fruit. They don’t typically undergo malo because the malic acid is low, and they make fabulous seafood wines. As for those wonderful descriptions on the labels, Myriam writes them.

Most of the vineyard parcels the family works with are non-irrigated and are hand-harvested. Many are head-pruned, especially those in windy sites where trellised systems can be risky (such zones often sport columns of modern wind turbines, each with a sensor that shuts them down when the wind exceeds safe speeds). In addition, often these parcels are inter-planted, as tradition mandated. These are old vines, and old vines on Crete means own-rooted pre-phylloxera vines planted at random in small–often very small–parcels that have supported vines for centuries.