Santorini has a great tradition in viticulture, at least 3500 years old. Its unique climate combined with the composition of the soil has made wine varieties with a distinct personality.
Santorini has one of the oldest vineyards all over the world that dates from the prehistoric times. The main varieties of grapes grown in Santorini and giving all the variety of its wines are Assyrtiko (which gives 80% of the production of Santorini), Athiri and Aidani from white and Mantilaria, Mavrotragano and Voutomato from the red ones. The wines of Santorini are characterized by intense aromas and flavors and high alcohol grades.
Santorini volcanic explosion
The ancient civilization of Santorini was completely destroyed by a catastrophic volcanic explosion that occurred somewhere between 1620-1640, BC. With every trace of life gone, all that remained was covered with volcanic ash; lava and pumice stone, which eventually lead to the creation of a compact soil, called aspa. It was in Santorini that Archeologists discovered the ancient village of Acrotiri, the oldest and best-preserved bronze-age village in Europe. The archeologists unearthed a great deal of evidence here that indicated the existance of viniculture and winemaking as far back as the Bronze Age. They found carbonized grape seeds, drawings that included evidence of vine cultivation and winemaking as well as numerous amphoras that were used to store the wine. Ironincally, it was the aspa created from the volcanic lava that preserved this ancient era in Greek Civilization for future generations to study.
Santorini, or Thira, is located at the southernmost end of the Cyclades complex. The island has been marked by the eruption of the volcano 3500 years ago. In this unique ecosystem, one of the world’s oldest and most beautiful vineyards is being developed. It is one of the few vineyards in the world that was not hit by phylloxera because of the volcanic composition of the soil. The vineyards extend throughout the island, but most of them are located in the central and southern parts of the island. They are shaped in the shape of baskets (coils or vines as they are called), in which the grapes are protected from the sun and the Meltemia (dry north winds). The vineyard occupies an area of approximately 1400 hectares, starting from the sea and reaching up to 300 meters altitude.
Santorini wine varieties
As in all the islands of Greece, Santorini has many native varieties, many of which are threatened with extinction. White varieties cover 80% of the vineyard. The most important variety is the charismatic Assyrtiko, perhaps the best Greek white variety, occupying an area of approximately 950 hectares, which combined with the volcanic composition of the soil gives excellent world-class wines. Other white varieties we encounter on the island are Adani and Athiri.
Although the most famous wines of Santorini are white, a small part of the vineyard is covered with red varieties. Mandilaria, which is found on all the Aegean islands, is used to produce dry and sweet rosé wines and some dry red wines. Mezzo is a sweet red wine produced by Mandilaria and aged for at least a year in oak barrels.
The red native variety that is of particular interest in recent years is the Mavratragano, which after many experiments carried out by the island’s producers, has given excellent wines having earned dramatic comments from Greek and foreign professionals. The wines produced have intense color, complex and intense aromas of black fruits, chocolate, herbs and land with a high level of tannins and aging.
Other native varieties found in Thira, in very small quantities, are the white Gedourias and the red Voudomatos. International varieties in Santorini are of minor importance.
The island owns the PDO. Santorini, where white dry wines are produced mainly from Assyrtiko, but the Athiri and Adani varieties can also be found, as well as sweet wines called Vinsanto. The traditional white, high-grade wine, Nycteri, can also bear this PDO mark. Wines that can not be labeled PDO may be classified as PGI.
The best Santorini wineries
To discover the pure taste of the Santorini wine region, you should visit the Gavalas family winery. The Gavalas family has been producing the finest wine on the island with Santorini’s vines for centuries.
Located on the dramatic cliffs at Megalochori, south of Fira, a visit to this winery is a fantastic taste experience. The enchanting wine museum and wineries are just great places to discover the wine.
The Argyros estate has been proud of its traditional wine-growing methods since 1903. Yannis Argyros, third generation winemaker, specializes in high-quality grape varieties, including Assyrtiko, Mavrathira and Voudomato. With these he presses his award-winning white wines and dessert wines.
As one of the world’s top 100 wineries in Wine & Spirits Magazine’s ranking, it exports its wines all over the world – but the best stay on the island.
One of the modern wineries on Santorini is the Santo Wines Winery in Pyrgos village. A subtle mix of modern technology and traditional cultivation methods creates the best drops of Santorini.
One of the highlights of this winery is the terrace on the cliff. After the excellently organized wine tour, here you can taste some of the award-winning white wines made from Assyrtiko and Nykteri grapes, while immersed in the breathtaking view of the Aegean Sea.
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Thanks to the unique volcanic ecosystem and climate as well as almost 200 years of experience in wine growing, this winery of the Roussos family produces what is probably the finest wines on the island.
The most famous of the seven wines produced here is the sweet Vinsanto (“holy wine”) and the delicious white Nykteri. You can enjoy a traditional Greek feast in the winery tavern. There is also carefully selected quality wine and spectacular sea views, which ensures an authentic Santorini experience.
Explore the long history of wine growing in Santorini: in the Koutsoyannopoulos Wine Museum in Vothonas. Here you will find a historic labyrinth eight meters underground, with the help of audio guides in 14 languages to learn everything about the history of wine in Santorini from 1660 to the present day.
Finally, try four of the finest Koutsoyannopoulos wines to keep the history of the wine alive.
The winery is situated on a beach, on the east side of the island, between Kamari and Monolithos settlements. This industrial stone building used to be a tomato factory, built at the beginning of the 1900s. Here, local cherry tomatoes were made into an aromatic tomato purée until the 1970s.
For GAIA, it has been an honor to preserve a piece of our heritage through the reclamation of this architectural example of industrialization.
Today, the high-tech equipment and the cutting edge facilities of the winery guarantee contemporary winemaking and ideal conditions for high-quality production.
On the ancient plain of Oia, in the island of Santorini, the winery of DOMAINE SIGALAS can be found. Here, the most vibrant variety of the Mediterranean zone, the Santorini Assyrtiko as well as the Aidani, Athiri, Mandilaria and the Mavrotragano are put to the best use possible, and with the proper respect to their organoleptic characteristics, the quality wines are produced which receive acclaim in international competitions, both in Greece and abroad.
Modern and sleek, yet understated and respectful, Vassaltis Vineyards is the newest addition to the Santorini wine-scene. The team is passionate and hard-working, and together they have produced some of the best Assyrtiko wines of recent years. After enjoying a couple of glasses on your terrace, why not visit and see where the magic takes place – The Vasilicos guests get special treatment, after all.
Hatzidakis WineryIn 1996 Haridimos Hatzidakis replanted a small vineyard which was abandoned since 1956, because of the large earthquake in Santorini. This vineyard of half hectare, which lies at an altitude of 330 meters, in the village of Pyrgos Kallistis, was cultivated organically with Aidani, an indigenous variety of Santorini.
Winery and vineyards are located within the classified zone of Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) Santorini, especially in the villages Pyrgos Kallistis, Megalochori, Emporio and Akrotiri.
Venetsanos winery is located right above the port of Athinios, overlooking the magnificent caldera of Santorini. The Venetsanos family has a very long tradition in producing wine. Originally was produced for the island and subsequently it was exported extensively, and particularly to countries such as Russia. It was built in 1947 by Venetsanos family and became the first industrial winery on the island.
The Boutari Company was established in 1879 in Naoussa by Ioannis Boutaris and today, his grand son, Konstantinos Boutaris, runs it. By the mid 1930s, Stelios, son of Ioannis, takes charge of the company and distributes its products abroad, starting from Austria, Hungary and Egypt. During the post-war period, the company expanded its activities in Athens and several other European countries. In the late 1970s, the two sons of Stelios, undertake the activities of the company and specifically, Ioannis takes charge of the oenological sector and Konstantinos the commercial sector.
Artemis Karamolegos Winery combines a great respect for Santorini’s winemaking traditions with a modern outlook and constant investment in our vineyards and in wine making equipment. This makes it of the most dynamic and fastest-growing wineries in Santorini. It has already won many prestigious awards in both domestic and international competitions.