Liatiko is a red variety that is experiencing a well-deserved ascent in Greece. Upon tasting this variety for myself, I’m happy to report that Liatiko deserves its rise in popularity. After all, Master of Wine Yiannis Karakasis says that Liatiko is like a hug. Plus, who doesn’t love hugs? Especially warm, welcoming Greek hugs. Actually, that’s a perfect way to describe Liatiko – warm, welcoming, and distinctly Greek.
Though it’s a dark-skinned variety, Liatiko often produces wines with light to medium color intensity and brick hues. Liatiko is a low-yielding aromatic red variety offering red fruit and warm spice aromas. Occasionally, this variety expresses floral aromas as well. These characteristics are typical of the dry Liatiko wines. However, Liatiko also produces sweet wines with sun-dried grapes. Many believe that the sweet Liatikos are the ultimate expression of the variety because the sun-dried technique intensifies the varietal characteristics beautifully.
Where To Find The Best Expressions of Liatiko
Crete, Greece’s largest island, is home to the best expressions of Liatiko. The climate here is mainly Mediterranean. Soils are mostly calcareous with some clay. Crete also has a mountainous terrain, giving growers the opportunity to plant at higher elevations to obtain cooler mesoclimates. Namely, two main PDOs focus on Liatiko production.
PDO Dafnes was established in 1971 in central Crete. Archaeological findings prove that Dafnes has been a center of wine production for Crete since ancient times. Wines under this PDO must be made from 100% Liatiko. Additionally, the designation encompasses dry and sweet red wines. The zone for PDO Dafnes sits amidst the eastern foothills of Mount Psiloritis and the western Heraklion District.
PDO Sitia is located in the district of Lisithi in eastern Crete. In 1971, the PDO was originally established for red wines only. Later, a dry white wine designation was added in 1998. The PDO calls for dry red wines to be a minimum of 80% Liatiko. Another local red variety called Mandilaria contributes the other 20%. Though sweet red wines must be made from 100% Liatiko from sun-dried grapes or in a fortified style. Expressly, this variety produces smaller bunches and berries in PDO Sitia compared to PDO Dafnes.
The Winery: Douloufakis Winery
Founded in 1930, family-owned Douloufakis Winery is located in the village of Dafnes in Central Crete. Dimitris Douloufakis originally established the winery. His son, George, eventually took over the family operation and later passed the reigns on to his son, Nikos Douloufakis.
Followoing his studies at Alba’s Oenological School in Piedmont, Italy, Nikos became the third-generation winemaker at Douloufakis Winery. He returned to Crete on the tail-end of phylloxera when wineries were replanting many of their vineyards. Nikos developed single vineyards of native Cretan varieties and introduced some international varieties to the estate. Today, Douloufakis Winery produces wines from both indigenous Cretan and international varieties.
Domaine Douloufakis, Dafnios Liatiko, PDO Dafnes 2017
- 100% Liatiko
- Aged for 12 months in French oak barrels
- Medium-minus color intensity, brick red with orange hues
- Medium-plus pronounced warming aromas of ripe red fruits, olive, warm spices like clove, and fig
- Medium-bodied with medium acidity, elegant tannins with similar flavors on the palate
- The aromas, flavors, and welcoming structure elude to the hug analogy
- Drinking beautifully now, but I can see this wine becoming even more integrated with age
The warm spice and red fruit aromas make this dish a great match for spiced dishes and braised meats. Liatiko is delicious when paired with the Greek spices in spanakopita. Ginger and orange roasted carrots, spiced Morrocan meatballs, harissa roasted cauliflower and chickpeas, or falafel pitas are all ideal wine pairing options. Red wine braised short ribs, balsamic braised lamb shanks, or grilled beef kefta kebabs will also shine alongside a bottle of Liatiko.