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I’ve become a big fan of Greek white wines over the last few years – some of them have been bracingly snappy, some have been hauntingly scented – but none of them came from the island of Crete. Indeed, when I’ve visited Crete I’ve usually ended up on Campari & soda.
But then I discovered the Lyrarakis family. They’ve planted a whole range of exciting grape varieties (some of them virtually extinct), in a high, cool valley in central Crete, and they are transforming the reputation of the island.
Assyrtiko is a grape that makes volcanic, haughty, pithy wines on the sparse, lava-strewn landscape of Santorini. It obviously does just as well in Crete, because this is packed with apple flavours like the best farm apple juice you could buy, the acidity is just enough to make your gums shiver politely in anticipation, and there’s a lingering taste of the island, as though someone had sprinkled a few grains of rock dust into your glass.