One of the experiences which I have always found fascinating is the romantic glamour of staying at a winery. When I think of a winery, my thoughts immediately race to that picture perfect postcard of Tuscany, the endless rolling hills and the beauty of a cypress-lined countryside. As a person who likes the idea of keeping a bucket-list and crossing off all the things that I want to experience, Tuscany was a place that I made sure I visited and is now off the list of places to see. However, staying at a winery was still to be experienced, so when Scalani Hills, Boutari Winery and Residences extended an invitation of visiting their property in Crete I was intrigued. On a hot summer night, early in July I made my way to a small, picturesque village named Scalani, located in the Acharnes region which is also famous for the ancient Knossos Palace that is found 5 kilometres away from the winery.
When I arrived at the winery it was already dark, but I was previously warned by Vivi Papaspirou who is the Oenologist and Hospitality Coordinator at the Scalani Hills, that all the beauty of the region will be discovered during the day.
Indeed, one can only appreciate the surrounding view when the sun is still up, and its rays glimmer over the vineyards. We were escorted to our private residence, there are only three accommodation suites inside the winery and they have all been completely renovated offering the most luxurious amenities. As the door opened, I found myself in front of an impressive two storey accommodation called Kotsifali which is named after a grape variety found in the region.
The accommodation is made of stone with wood elements and according to Vivi, what I found out the following day is that this used to be the old cellar that has been completely renovated into this luxury guest house.
On the ground floor of this 70 square meter maisonette there is a dining room and a sitting area that leads inside toward the most luxurious bathroom with a very spacious shower cabin. The bathroom is really something else.
A wooden ladder leads up towards the mezzanine which features a bedroom with a king-size Coco Mat bed, separate walk-in closet area and a small bathroom. For me this is a perfect example of a loft-style accommodation, my kind of place. After settling in we enjoyed a glass of chilled Boutari white wine known as Kritikos.
In the morning we had ordered our breakfast to be set up at the verandah outside the cottage at 10:00 am. Guests staying at the Scalani Hills, Boutari Winery & Residences can complete their breakfast form the night before selecting the time they wish to have their breakfast and of course what they would like to have for breakfast. The breakfast was an experience of its own, a peaceful morning overlooking the vineyards and olive groves. After breakfast we met Vivi who took us on the tour of the winery and explained the history of the place.
The history of Boutari goes back to 1879 when the winery was established in Naoussa, which until today is the company’s main winery. Today Boutari owns 6 wineries in Greece which are located in some of the most important regions of the country: Goumenissa, Naoussa, Santorini, Athens, Tripoli and Crete. The Cretan winery was first established in 1990 and was housed in what today are the renovated private residences. In 2004 the new state of the art building was opened and is considered to be one of the best equipped wineries in Europe. After years of experimenting with the different variety of grapes and what is best grown in the region, this year new grape varieties have been planted. Therefore this will be the first year of the new grape type.
The vineyard includes red grape varieties Kotsifali, Mantilaria, Syrah and the white varieties Chardonnay, Malvasia Aromatica, Moschato Spinas,Viviano and Assyrtiko. In four years time the winery will have a full production. This year a new watering system has been implemented as the new vineyards require more attention and due to the chaining climate in the area. The harvesting period starts here in the beginning of August and lasts until mid September.
All grapes are hand picked and placed on a conveyer belt where the clean grapes are separated. The white grapes are then directed towards a cylinder where they are processed. During the day the containers that hold the wine are cooled down by cold water that runs between the metal walls. White wine must be kept in temperatures of 16-18 degrees Celsius and red 23-25 degrees Celsius. It takes about 15 days for the wine making process and then the whine is placed into wooden barrels. Vivi also showed us their small size machines that are used for smaller productions and experiments of creating new wine types.
Wine making period:
- 3 months – White wine
- 1 year – Red wine
- 3 years – sweet red wine
New barrels are used for the maturing of the red wine and the old barrels are used for the sweet red wine. 70 per cent of the barrels are French and 30 per cent are from USA. It is important that the wine cellar has very good ventilation, lighting, temperature and smells.
Kallisti white wine which is produced in Santorini from assyrtiko grape variety can last up to 15 years. Some of the red wines can last up to 25-30 years. The Naoussa wine usually takes 10-15 years until it reaches its peak and shows off its best aromas. It is recommended to change the corks after a 6 year period.
After we finished the tour of the winery Vivi took us to try the different wines produced locally by Boutari. We tried 4 different wine types, 2 white and 2 red. Fantaxometocho wine 60% Chardonnay, 25 % Malvazi Aromatica, 15% Vilana takes 3 months to age in oak barrels. The complex aromatic character of the wine is reminiscent of lemon blossom, pineapple and notes of honey.
We also tried both white and red Kritikos wine, the red is made of the two main Cretan grape types 65% Kotsifeli and 35% Mandilari which gives the red colour to the wine. And last we tried the Skalani red wine which consists of 50% Kotsifali and 50% Syrah. This wine takes 1 year to age in the barrel and has been awarded with numerous important distinctions.
We ended our day with a delicious lunch which was served on the verandah outside our guesthouse. Mrs Maria who has been working on the property long before it was turned into a guesthouse, prepared her specialties which we enjoyed with a glass of chilled white wine.
The tour of the winery is €5 per person inclusive of wine tasting (3 wine types)
Scalani Hills, Boutari Winery & Residences is a member of Guest Inn Network.
Boutari Winery in Skalani, Heraklion, Crete
Tel: +30 2810 731617, Fax: +30 2810 731755