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  • Writer's pictureNelly Ward

Santorini - the Volcanic Wonder Wines

Under the blue skies and in even bluer waters of the Aegean Sea seats a beautiful island of Santorini.

Santorini landscape

The living landscape is captivating: cute white cave houses, excavated into the rock, coexist harmoniously with blue-domed churches and windmills, surrounded by cobblestone paths with hundreds of steep steps. The breathtaking views from virtually any point at the Caldera of still technically active volcano, Black and Red beaches, crystal clear warm water, heart stopping sunsets, unbelievable fresh cuisine - if that's not enough for you to call this place a paradise, wait till you try the wines.

Kouloura vines

The hot, sunny, dry climate with no rainfall during the vine growing season and very strong winds, that blow year round virtually from all directions forced the winegrowers to come up with a unique vine training technique, where the vines are woven in a circle and laid out in the shape of a basket - "kouloura" - to protect them from the harsh weather conditions and collect water from the early morning mists brought from the Caldera.

The wonders don't stop there. The ash-rich volcanic soils made the island immune to the Phylloxera, making it the sanctuary of some of the oldest ungrafted vines in the world.

The wine production is dominated by the local white varieties, with Assyrtiko being the iconic grape not just of Santorini, but arguably of Greece as a whole.

Glass of Assyrtiko Wine

Assyrtiko is a very versatile yet distinctive grape with crisp acidity and strong mineral character with a savoury density, reflecting the volcanic soils and salinity coming from the sea. It can produce different styles from leaner steely energised wines for early drinking, to complex age-worthy textural examples matured on the lees and/or in oak, that can develop immensely in the bottle. It also forms a backbone of Vinsanto - a sweet wine made from late-harvested and sun-dried grapes, often aged for over 15years in oak, resulting in almost black syrupy goodness with flavours of fig, chocolate and coffee, brought to live by high acidity.

Other indigenous grapes which add to the diversity of the region's wines are Athiri and Aidani, producing crisp, aromatic white wines and often blended with Assyrtiko; and Mavrotragano, producing rich red wines with soft silky tannins and notes of dark fruit, tobacco, and spices.

Cheers at the sunset on Santorini

Wines have been produced in Santorini for thousands of years, but now, as in many beautiful spots of the world, the land under vines is giving way to the touristic infrastructure, as more commercially viable. I'd say the balance is still there at the moment, however, one can only hope that it will remain and the vineyards will be preserved.

After all, the wines of Santorini are the undeniable part of this unique paradise in the Aegean Sea.


© All images on this page are subject to copyright. 2023 Nelly Ward

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