While in Santorini I was thrilled to discover a new wine!  Wineries dot the island and the ‘bushes’ grow everywhere.  The dry volcanic soil produces a very unique grape. One evening during our stay, Vendema Resort’s Sommelier Vaios Panagiotoulas took us on a Greek Wine Journey in their Canava Wine Bar (a catacomb carved out of the earth) and taught us everything we needed to know.

Vaios told us Greeks were the first winemakers dating back to 6,000 B.C.  The first vines were discovered on a northeast island of Greece and then taken to Crete where it was cultivated on the Archanes winery near Knossos.  Then to Sicily, then Italy (who improved the taste), onto Spain and finally France.

There are over 300 varieties of grape in Greece in 7 wine zones. One of those zones is Santorini which produces mainly 3 white varieties: Assyrtico, Aidani and Athiri.  Because Santorini is so warm and windy, the grape vines are grown in bushes.  These basket shape bushes allow the grapes to grow inside them, protected from the wind and letting them capture the humidity in the middle of the bush at night.

We tasted 7 different wines on our journey.  The Assyrtiko grape produces a crisp, minerally wine with high acidity and high alcohol content.  Athiri is more fruity and lower acidity / alcohol content.  Aidani grape is typically sweet, fruity, fragrant with low acidity.  The blending and aging process chosen have a big impact on the final result.  I found from our tasting and since when I’ve enjoyed Assyrtiko (the main variety you find outside of Santorini), it is a dry white wine (many literally have a slight smokey smell from the volcanic soil), fresh, crisp, with sea salt and minerals. Some are more citrus in smell and taste while some tend toward apricot and honey.  The grapes also make very good dessert wines, Vinsanto I’m sure you’ve heard of.  The name means ‘wine from Santorini’.

We also visited Santo Wines Winery, the biggest producer on the island with a huge tasting room and patio with amazing views (built for big tourist groups but still worth the visit).  One wine we tasted is an exclusive wine called Nykteri, meaning ‘staying up all night,’ which is picked in the afternoon and pressed at night when its not too hot. The wine is very complex with layers of jasmine, fruit like banana/pineapple and spice.

Next time you’re out for Greek or making some at home, try a Santorini Assyrtiko.  Yassas!

For more Santorini wine pictures visit the gallery.