One aspect of Cretan culture that has remained prominent throughout history is its relationship with wine. Ancient Crete was known for its sophisticated wine culture, as evidenced by the famous frescoes of the Minoan Palace of Knossos, which depict the harvesting, pressing and storage of wine. Wine played an important role in Minoan religious ceremonies, social events and everyday life.
During the period of Venetian rule from the 13th to the 17th century, Crete was an important export source of Malvasia wine. This renowned sweet wine played an important role in the cultural and economic development of the island during this period.
The Venetians recognized its exceptional quality and unique taste, which made it a favorite beverage among the European aristocracy. Its prestige was such that it was often used as a diplomatic gift among the European powers.
Wine production on the island continued throughout the Ottoman period and into modern times. The region of Heraklion is the center of Cretan vineyards and includes five of the seven Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) zones of the island.