Heraklion, Crete, Greece
Unique terroir and indigenous varieties at the crossroads of European and Asian winemaking traditions
It is on Eastern Crete, just 8 km from the waters of the Mediterranean, that the Stilianou family founded their winery back in 1922, in the aftermath of the Greco-Turkish war. They brought vinicultural and winemaking techniques from mainland Greece and Asia Minor, and applied them to the local terroir. Working solely with Cretan indigenous varieties, Giannis Stilianou is now the guardian of this incredibly rich meeting of traditions.
Location: Heraklion, Crete, Greece
Working with us since: 2020
Total area under vine: 3 ha
Viticultural standards: Organic certified
Interesting fact: Giannis produces two natural wines under a special ‘Great Mother’ label (named after the mother goddess of the ancient Minoans).
The production is incredibly small, and these wines have gained an incredible cult-like international following. No wonder they sell out immediately after release. Don’t worry: we’re on a quest to get some bottles to British shores!
Giannis Stilianou and his teenage son are the only two pairs of hands that tend to their three hectares of vineyards, set against the dramatic landscape of Heraklion and planted only with indigenous Cretan varieties. The vineyards are dry-farmed and have never received any artificial treatments whatsoever. The grapes develop incredible complexity by ripening under an ideal balance of stress and ease: during the day the Cretan sun subjects them to intense heat while the mountain breeze blows at night for a cooling effect. This is crucial to the impressive concentration, intense aromatics and refreshing balance that are trademarks of Stilianou’s wines.
Giannis’ family emigrated to Crete after the last Greece-Turkey war. This Greek community brought with them many agricultural and winemaking techniques from Asia Minor. One of them was the drying of grapes on “tsisveres“- wooden boards that are laid out on the ground, under the sun, during the day, and stacked inside at night, in a way that allows for air to flow through and prevent any rotting. This traditional method is used in the product of the naturally sweet, sun-dried Kotsifali.
Giannis’ career in winemaking was not straightforward. He initially decided not to follow the family tradition and studied engineering. But after working as an engineer for a short while, it soon became apparent that his heart belonged in the vineyards of his childhood and teenage years. And so his true calling was given voice, summoning him to dedicate his life to his beautiful vines and wines.