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Luxurious food and wine, a lighted candle and a small flowerpot with olive tree overlooking the sea from above at sunset.
P. Merakos

Wines of Santorini

If there was ever an island worthy of the nickname “the wine island”, then it is undoubtedly Santorini.

The excavations at the site of Akrotiri have proved that wine making and trading used to be among the most important activities for prehistoric locals. Several eruptions of the volcano over the centuries caused consecutive layers of volcanic matter, including ash, lava, and pumice to cover the limestone and slate subsoil, forming what the locals call “aspa”, i.e. hard, solid ground. Over the years, grape growers have built terraces using petrified lava stones in order to prevent the soil being eroded by the strong winds, and to help retain what little rain falls.

Thanks to geographical factors here, the vines are very healthy: the hot sun and strong winds dry up any dampness on the fruit and prevent diseases and other problems such as mildew and botrytis.
In other words, the principles of organic cultivation are automatically applied here, as the growers are left only with the tasks of sulphuration and pruning. The latter involves the use of a special technique to form a “basket” within which the grapes are protected from the sand carried in the wind.

Which are the best known varieties?

Some forty grape varieties produce an average yield of 350 kilos per 1000sqm on the 3,706 acres of Santorini’s vineyard. Given the bad weather conditions, the production is rather low. But the quality is extremely high.

Accounting for 80% of the island’s production, Assyrtiko is widely cultivated throughout Greece due to its high adaptability to different bioclimatic conditions. High acidity and freshness are characteristics of the wines made using this variety.

Mainly used for mixing with Assyrtiko, the white variety of Athiri produces wine with a high alcohol content.
Aidani, with its sharp aroma, is used along with assyrtiko in order to add aromas to vinsanto.
Full of phenolic elements and an amazing aging ability, Mavrotragano is a red variety which is indigenous to the Cyclades.

In the 70’s, wines produced using the varieties Assyrtiko, Athiri and Aidani gained the right to be lawfully acknowledged as VQPRD (Vin de Qualité Produit Dans Une Région Déterminée). Three types of wine which can be marked “VQPRD” are produced on the island: A cool, exuberant dry white wine with a metallic character.

A white wine named Nykteri, which ages in the barrel for several months and has a high alcohol content. It owes its name (Nykteri comes from “nykta” = night) to the fact that, in the past, the vinification procedure would take place at night to eliminate the risk of oxidisation.

Vinsanto, a wine with a rich gold colour and an exceptional aroma achieved thanks to many years of maturation and aging in the bottle and the extra-mature sun-dried white grapes with which it is made.

Many wineries on the island of Santorini, one of the oldest wine-producing areas in the world, have now been opened up to visitors or turned into museums. Don’t miss out on the chance to visit them and do a little wine tasting yourself.