Cretan wine is famous around the world for its exquisite taste and unique quality. The secret of its success lies in the Cretan land, climate and traditional production practices, some of which have roots to antiquity. The birth of Cretan wine starts every year at the end of the summer, when grapes are mature enough to be harvested, a process known as Trygos in Crete.
Archaeological findings dating back to about 3000 BC suggest that grape harvest and wine consumption in Crete was common since Minoan times. In fact, the oldest wine-press (3500 years old) was found in Vathipetro, Crete, and according to Homer, Cretan wines were already popular throughout the known world in his time. In Roman times, the vinification process was further improved with new tools and methods, and Cretan wines conquered Rome with their extraordinary quality and taste.
From ancient times to our days, grape harvest and vinification in Crete developed greatly with the addition of new production methods, tools and varieties, but one thing remained stable: the great quality and worldwide fame. Crete’s unique climate and geomorphology ensure the growth of healthy vineyards and the production of quality wine. Traditionally, trygos is primarily a family business and usually takes place from mid- August to mid-September, depending on the microclimate of each region. Vineyard owners know from experience and years of observation when is the best time to harvest the grapes, and which grapes are best to be kept for wine-making, which ones are best to be dried out to become raisins, or to consume as table grapes.
Wine-making is always taken seriously, as a year’s harvest is the secret of a good wine, and a source of pride for every viticulturist, especially for professionals. In Crete, almost every family produces its own wine and share it with friends and family throughout the year.
Even the process of trygos is a special event for Cretans, and even though it is a hard labor under the hot summer sun, it is also a collective activity that often goes together with small celebrations and feasts in the vineyard!
Trygos typically starts early in the morning to avoid the strong sun and goes on until late afternoon. The grapes are collected into special crates, which are later gathered into one place, accessible from the road, so they can be easily transferred to the wine press. In the past, each family had an outdoor wine press (patitiri) and the pressing process was done by stepping on the grapes frantically to extract their juices, which were then channeled and collected into large barrels. This method was probably used since antiquity and was common until about the 80s in Crete. Today, modern machinery is used in professional wine presses, to ensure certain quality and health standards. The result of trygos, however, remains the same: excellent quality tasty wine, found in local taverns, Cretan houses, the international market and expensive restaurants and wine bars around the world!