The SOMM Journal

August/September 2014

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82 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2014 THE ONCE AND FUTURE CRETE CRETE CRETE A ONCE-STORIED REGION FACES NEW CHALLENGES story and photos by Joe Roberts The Cretan port of Chania. he tourists who flock each year to Crete's Palace of Knossos—the Minoan ruins that house the oldest throne room and some of the most ancient evidence of winemaking culture in Europe—probably have little notion that they're standing within spitting distance of one of the wine world's great ironies. On one hand, Crete's viticultural roots date back to at least 4000 b.c.; another Cretan archeological site, Vathypetro, is home to one of the oldest wine presses ever discovered. Within Europe, only Caucasia can claim a longer history of winemaking than this Greek island. Wine was so important to the ancient Cretans that rules govern- ing grape growing are included in the 5th century b.c. Gortyn Code, the oldest legal text unearthed in Europe. For roughly 1,700 years—from the late 60s b.c. through the mid-17th century—Cretan wine held a dominant position in export markets, reaching an annual production of 60,000 barrels under Venetian rule in the 16th century. The white Thrapsathiri grape is one of Crete's indigenous varieties.

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