The island of Santorini, located on the southern side of the Aegean Sea, is consistently voted among the top travel destinations of the planet, attracting thousands of visitors every year to explore its beautiful landscapes.
Santorini is popular for its stunning cliffside views, the volcano and the romantic sunset, but is, at the same time, becoming more and more famous for its unique wines.
The island of Santorini is one of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world, with roots in prehistoric times. The tradition of viticulture has existed for at least 3500 years in the island, but was violently interrupted by a great volcanic eruption, around 1650 BC, which eliminated any trace of human life and vegetation of the island for about three centuries.
Today the vineyard area on the island of Santorini covers approximately 3.200 acres, starting from sea level and reaching an altitude of 300 meters, arranged in terraces. Vines are ungrafted since phylloxera never survived in the island’s sandy, volcanic soil; they are also woven in a special shape, resembling a wreath-like nest, close to the soil, called “kouloura” or “ambelia”, devised in order to protect the grapes from the strong sunlight and the violent winds.
Vineyards are mostly on the island’s central and northern parts, and are quite scattered, as a large part of the island, which is considered prime real estate, is developed, mainly for tourist purposes. A small part of the island’s vineyards is located on the nearby island of Thirassia, which is included in the PDO Santorini zone.
The main indigenous grape variety of the island is Assyrtiko, a versatile white variety, considered to be among the finest white grape varieties of Greece (and, arguably, the world), producing wines with explosive acidity and great structure.
PDO Santorini wines may be dry white or sweet (Vinsanto).
PDO Santorini dry white wines are produced by blending Assyrtiko (at least 75%) with Aidani White and Athiri.
“Nychteri”, a wine category which is also included in the PDO Santorini wines, is made by overripe grapes which produce high-alcohol, dry white wines, for which grapes are harvested in the early hours of the morning. “Nychteri” must be then aged in oak barrels for a minimum period of 3 months.
The dessert wine of the PDO Santorini range, Vinsanto, is produced by Assyrtiko (minimum 51%), Aidani White and exceptionally, only in small amounts of the white Gaidouria, Katsano, Muscat White, Monemvasia, Platani, Potamisi and the reddish Roditis.
Grapes used for the production of Vinsanto must be sun-dried until they reach a certain amount of sugar content (370g/L of sugar) and the wine produced must then age in oak barrels for at least 24 months.
Vinsanto wines can be either “naturellement doux – vin de raisin passerile” or “vin de liqueur de raisin passerile” and are vintage-driven; however, different vintages can also be blended, as long as the more recent one is clearly indicated on the label.