Iím back to the world of laptops, e-mail, websites, deadlines and blogs, after seven days in Crete. In a way, Iím glad to be back: I enjoy what I do. But Iím feeling refreshed and sharper after an enforced lay-off, where Iíve been doing little more than swimming, eating, drinking, reading, walking and entertaining the children (when they werenít entertaining themselves).
Crete is a beautiful island, but like much of the Mediterranean it has been blighted by unrestricted development pandering to lowest-common-denominator package tourism. By going somewhere fairly remote (the stony beach helped deter the big tour operators from encouraging the erection of a chain of council tower block-like hotels, although in decade this place will have been built up), we had a really relaxing time. My favourite bit? Swimming and snorkelling in the wonderfully clear sea (which I'm pictured doing below, although the photo was taken by one of my kids who hasn't mastered the art of zooming in on the subject).
Cretan wine? I tried a few, but made no effort to do any vineyard visits or even a serious sampling of what was on offer. There was an honesty about the wines we tried, almost all of which never saw a bottle. They were made and drunk within the vintage, stored in a variety of different ways and sold by the carafe (in half-litre or litre quantities). The house white wine at our accommodation was served from 1.5 litre water bottles, hastily decanted into carafes. And it was fantastic (with the exception of the odd bottle that had oxidised Ė you should choose the lightest-coloured one). Quite low in acid, with a fat, ripe melon fruit palate and wonderful purity. Clearly made from quite ripe grapes, but still fresh and fruity, and very smooth. The house red was a bit rougher, but equally honest, with a slightly faded, light red colour and a savoury spiciness, together with some oxidative notes (I think this had been in cask) and elevated volatile acidity. A bottled red was even more flawed, with some savoury spicy brettanomyces character joining the volatile acidity, but this worked very well. Iíd have rather had this pale, spicy wine than a cooked up, industrial, flaw-free red. Honestly.