Crete is an amazing island. The southernmost land in Europe, it lies 120 miles east to west in the Mediterranean, just north of modern-day Libya and Egypt. It is 38 miles across at its widest, but to get from north to south, you have to hairpin-turn your way over a range of mountains that have bedeviled conquerors and is home of some of the most-stunning canyons in Europe.
Perhaps the oldest civilization in Europe —– the Minoans —– lived here more than four millennia ago, yet they were advanced enough to leave us many traces of how and where they lived, including both wine and olive oil presses. The Minoans were followed by boatloads of invaders and traders who all made their marks on the land and the culture —– the Romans, early Jewish settlers, Byzantines, Ottomans, and Greeks from the mainland. Perhaps it was the Venetians, however, who most influenced Crete, setting up trading ports along the northern coast to make Crete’s wines and preserved produce famous throughout Europe.
A few weeks ago I flew into Chania, the quaintest and most-tourist-friendly of the old Venetian ports, on a short flight from Athens to visit wineries and to talk with the winemakers —– as well as liberally sample the island’s foods. Click here to learn more about Crete's burgeoning wine regions.