Thursday, August 17, 2017

The wines of Santorini

vineyard in santorini
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A trip to Santorini is much more than a visit to the Caldera. Among many other things, it is also a gastronomic experience which will initiate you into the secrets of the best vineyards of Greece.
 If you had asked someone two decades ago what pictures the word Santorini brought to their mind, the answer would have been something about the Caldera and the sunset.
In the 80s, the wine producers of the island produced cheap bulk wine, while vineyards were easily sacrificed on the altar of a “room to let” or a “mini market”.

 At some point, the island became overpacked and tourists themselves, who until then had been supporting  this “rooms-to-let” regime, started to abandon the island exactly  because of this excessive overflow. Now there was demand for high quality and the sector of gastronomy within this context acquired new dimensions. All of a sudden, Santorini found herself having  another precious heritage in her hands: her vineyards.

These vineyards, which, thanks to the power of the volcanic soil and the character of a charismatic grape variety, Assyrtikos, gave wines with a unique identity. Great wine producers have worked incredibly hard and, as a result, the Santorini wines stand today among the most popular wines in Greece demonstrating the highest sales abroad

Other main varieties are Athyri, Aidani (white), Mantilaria and Mavrotragano (red). At the same time, the island has several rare local varieties, the so-called “xenoloes”, such as Voudomato, Katsano, Gaidouria, Flaskia, Potamisi, Mavrathyro, Aitonyhi etc. Some wine producers have recently started vinification of such varieties.

Today Santorini constitutes the best organized wine-tourist destination with visit able wineries, excellent restaurants and wine tasting.
Since vineyards and wine play the first role for many years in Santorini, it is worth spending some of your time in order to visit some, if not all the wineries that run in the island today; or maybe the vineyards that are spread along the slopes and the lowlands of Santorini.
Make a tour of the wineries (most of them offer an organized tour), discover the history of wine on the island and taste the exceptional wines produced.

Gavalas Vineyard
The Gavalas family have been dealing with wine for more than 300 years. The owner’s passion is to promote rare varieties. It is him who vinified grape varieties such as Katsano and Gaidouria, which no one else had been using on the island. The winery is in Megalohori, one of the most picturesque villages of Santorini. You are led to the “canava” of the winery through a stone tunnel which is lit and set up in such a way that it unfolds the whole story of the winery.
Megalohori, tel: 22860-82552

Gaia Winemakers
You probably remember the “Tomata” restaurant. It is exactly at this spot that the Gaia Winery is situated. It is more than ten years that an old tomato factory in Exo Gonia has been converted to an impressive modern winery. Yiannis Paraskevopoulos, one of the contemporary wine producers with his own outstanding personal view, created in 1994 “Thalassitis”, the wine which stirred up the waters of the Greek wine-making sector at that time. In addition, a sort of sweet vinegar is produced here coming exclusively from the Assyrtikos grape, which ages in French oak barrels for at least five years' time.
Exo Gonia-Santorini, tel: 210-8055642/3. Visits by appointment only

Canava Roussos
It is really touching to find yourself in the oldest canava of Santorini! The Roussos family winery has existed since 1836. What characterises the Roussos family is high respect to tradition. Besides the guided tour around the canava, you will also experience wine tasting in the garden with the trailing vine, while trying a rich variety of local dishes (mezedes).
Mesa Gonia, Episkopi Santorini, tel: 22860-31349

Antoniou Winery
Immediately after World War II, in 1945, a winery was set up on the island by chemist Giorgos Venetsanos, who ran the winery for approximately thirty years. Today, Kostas Antoniou has created new premises for the production and aging of wines, a hall for visual artistic events and concerts, a traditional Greek kafenio (coffee shop) offering delicious tastes from the past and an exhibition hall for jewellery and wine tasting. It is built on the Caldera overlooking Athinios, the harbour of the island.
Megalohori, Santorini, tel: 22860-23557. Visits by appointment only

Santo Wines  (Association Cooperatives of Theraic Products)
It was founded in 1947 and is the largest wine producer in Santorini with approximately one thousand active members, including all vine-growers of Santorini. It has been built on various levels so that energy is saved by using the law of gravity. It is one of the first modern wineries on the island in terms of design and the largest one in terms of capacity. The grapes lying in the sun on the balconies above the Caldera to yield the Vinsanto in September offer a particularly attractive view, for this is probably the only winery overlooking the Caldera. There is a sales kiosk with a great variety of wines and local products.
Pyrgos, tel: 22860-22596, 25218

Ktima Argyros
The Argyros canava was founded in 1903 by Georgios Argyros. At that time his ambition was to exploit his 20-stremma (2-hectare) vineyard and so he constructed a rudimentary winery. In 1950 the winery was handed over to his son, Mattheos. Since 1974 it has been run by Giannis Argyros, who expanded the vineyard area to 220 stremmas and went on even further to modernising the winery. Argyros Vinsanto 1987 is by far the best Vinsanto produced in Santorini.
Episkopi-Gonia, tel: 22860-31489. Visits by appointment only

Koutsogiannopoulos Winery
A winery with great history. Their grandfathers, who came from Sparta, sold oil on the island of Syros. At some time western winds washed them ashore to Santorini, where they realised that the wine here had great potential. So, they settled here permanently and got intent exclusively on wine. Within 20 years they constructed their own ships and started exporting to Russia, from 1870 to 1917. What makes the winery special is the impressive museum at the undercover canavas, where is presented the whole history of the Santorini wine and Santorini vine-grower from 1660 until today.
Vothonas, Santorini, tel: 22860-31322

Boutari Winery, Santorini
Konstantinos Boutaris is a man whose natural love for the wine and vine is deep under his skin. He speaks about Santorini with great enthusiasm: “She will remain in History as a place of extraordinary beauty and a region which produces excellent wine!”. It is the only winery on the island which can be visited all year round. You can choose a program including a guided tour (offered in five different languages) and tasting various different wines. It is a very modern winery. Very interesting is the multimedia show presenting an overview of the history of Santorini and the winery.
It is situated after Megalohori, on the way to Akrotiri,
tel: 22860-81011

Hatzidakis Winery
This winery was born as an idea in the minds of its creators, Haridimos and Konstantina, who were strongly driven by their love and knowledge for high-quality wine. In the privately-owned vineyard outside the village Pyrgos Kallistis, on the way to Profitis Ilias, there used to be an undercover building structure which was converted into a winery. Although it is not exactly what one would characterize as visitable, the hospitality here is so warm-hearted that you might be interested in visiting it.
Pyrgos Kallistis. Call in advance at 22860-32552, 32466, 6973-989158.

Ktima Sigala
The winery was founded in 1991. Today 23 hectares are being cultivated with different grape varieties of the island giving wines that have been awarded in various contests. Since 1994 the company has been integrated to the Biological Agricultural Program and has been cooperating with the Accreditation Organisation ΔΗΩ. You will be guided around the winery and sit in the garden under the pergola to try the wines accompanied with local dishes (mezedes), while gazing at the vines which expand as far as the sea .
Baxedes, tel: 22860-71644

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