An Alternative to Traditional Tourism: Agrotourism in Crete

The National Herald

A `return to nature' through alternative tourism is a unique experience. Visitors have the opportunity to come into contact with traditional Cretan life by staying in one of the many agrotourism cottages in the hinterland.

Agrotourism lodges and several specialized companies provide seminars for traditional cooking, making pastries, kneading bread and collecting wild greens, herbs, mushrooms, snails and truffles.

Moreover, one can participate in the harvest of olives, the process of the olive oil production, distillation of raki, vintage, honey production, vegetable cultivation, collection of milk and dairy products processing, raising of domestic animals, sheep – shearing, etc. Below you can explore some of these options in more depth and detail.

Vine – Harvest

The National Herald

Wine is a Basic Component of Greek Culture

There are thousands of references from the Minoan times about the cultivation of vineyards for wine making. Minoan varieties are still grown today, in the same fields and sometimes with the same methods as they were thousands of years ago.

There is no Cretan meal without wine - almost every house has its own wine. The vineyard needs care after the harvest, starting with a basic trimming. The main trimming takes place, depending on the area and the altitude, in January or February. Afterwards, the vineyard requires more work, like disinfection with sulphur.

The ripening and the harvest takes place depending on the variety and the altitude of the area during the first ten days of August until the beginning of October. Until then, the vine requires constant supervision and work, for the prevention of various diseases.

The social dimension of the grape-harvest gives us a characteristic aspect of agricultural life in Crete. Starting at dawn friends and relatives collect and carry the grapes. When the grape-harvest ends, the grapes are pressed either with the feet or with machines and the grape juice is produced. The sunshine of Crete gives the juice a lot of sugars so they have several high-degree wines.

The landlady of the home will then take grape juice, “boil” it with ashes and serve it with almonds, walnuts, sesame and cinnamon. When the pressing ends, the grape juice is placed in barrels or remains in the press for some hours to obtain colour and tannins. Then it's party time! Everybody sits around the rich table with the best wines of the house and gives wishes to the landlord.

Tsikoudia – Distillery

The National Herald

Distilling tsikoudia begins in the autumn. Tsikoudia, according to the legislation in force, must have 37.5% alcohol and its maximum methanol concentration should not be more than 8 gr./litre.

The distillation of tsikoudia is allowed only with a special permit. All the villages that produce this liquor have special cauldrons in which the remains of the grapes and the liquid of the barrels from the wine harvest are placed, sealed airtight and boiled until the temperature is proper for the distillation to begin. The cover of the cauldron has a pipe which is usually cooled externally with water so that the steam produced becomes liquid and then comes out as tsikoudia.

The “protoraki”(a/k/a the first raki) is the first distillation that flows from the cauldron and is particularly high quality. In many villages of Crete, berries are still distilled to make mournoraki (berry raki).