The vine has been systematically cultivated in Crete the last 4.000 years. The oldest wine press in the world has been discovered in Vathipetro, and is over 3.500 years old. In the 1920s, the then Greek Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos (born and raised in Chania Crete) legalized and licensed the distillation of grapes’ pomace by local farmers, which produces the world known Cretan ‘Raki’ or ‘Tsikoudia’. This, strong in alcohol, aromatic and flavorful grape-based pomace brandy, was declared a product with Protected geographical indication (PGI) by a European Committee in 1989.
Tsikoudia and Cretan life go hand in hand. This alcohol beverage served in a shot glass is synonym to the Cretan philosophy of open-hearted hospitality. Visitors soon discover that wherever they go they will be offered a Tsikoudia shot as a welcome and thank you gesture. Cretans are proud people that had to defend their island many times while facing hardships and isolation. These challenges molded the Cretan character. Sharing shots of Tsikoudia at the village’s square, around the table and among friends, was a tool to communicate, break boundaries and socialize with basic means. Even without words, the urge of sharing of Tsikoudia translates as a hug, a smile, a ‘thank you’, an ‘I care for you’, an ‘I am sorry’.
Every year, the period between mid-October to mid-December, marks the season of Tsikoudia’s distillation (‘kazania’) which is considered a feast and big part of Cretan traditions. Around the family’s distillery, a celebration is put together, accompanied by local delicacies, dancing, singing and of course drinking.