Malvazia, the Cretan Wine


We know that in the first two centuries of Venetian rule (13th and 14th centuries BC), Crete was primarily a grain-producing area. At this same time, Cretan wine begins to gain ground; by the 15th there exists a large export market.

Wines of Crete, history. The famous Malvazia cretan wine of Malevizi region

The Italian traveler Buondelmonti reports on Crete in 1415: "the ships arrive here from every corner of the world and load every year 20,000 barrels of wine of exceptional quality". He also records as from the neighbourhood of Candia (Herakleion) – "the outstanding Malvazia".

In the 16th century we have evidence that Cretan wines had won a large market – being exported to Germany, France, Bohemia, England, Portugal, Constantinople, the Black Sea and Alexandria.

In 1576 the Venetian Proveditore of Crete, Foscarini, said in his report that the annual export was 60,000 barrels. Knolles in 1603 wrote that "Crete is now very famous in much of the world for her good Malmsey (malavisia) produced there – and which is taken in great volumes to many far-off countries".

Cretan Diet. The history of Cretan Wines and Cretan vineyard

These testimonies combine with a report from the traveler Belon and yet other authoritative historical sources .. and also with the known fact that in 1421 the Portuguese took Malvasia vines from Crete to Madeira... to show conclusively that Malvazia was a Cretan wine, and was so-called after the Malevizi region.

This connection has from time to time been documented by prominent scholars of Crete: Psilakis, Xirouchakis, Xanthoudides, Detorakis T and E, and Faure.

Most recently Alexiou stated that in the Venetian era, outside the western fortifications of Herakleion began vineyards that stretched clean across the region of Malevizi to the foothills of Ida. This is clearly referred to by the poet Marinos Zane Bouniali, who described in detail the Cretan War, telling that at the time the Turks sealed Herakleion off, children came from the western gates of the walls to cut grapes. This whole region was and is a wine-producing one – accordingly, to Alexiou, "it was but natural that the wine produced there took the name of the locale ..."

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