The little Greek island of Santorini claims to produce the best wine in the country. And, having sampled the goods for myself on a tour of the popular Boutari Winery, I’m in full agreement…
Top of my to-do list on a recent holiday to Santorini (besides getting a killer tan) was to indulge in a spot of wine-tasting. Santorini prides itself on producing the best wine in Greece – a claim I was keen to investigate, naturally. The volcanic island, which is so narrow you’ve pretty much always got a sea view on both sides of you, is home to about a dozen wineries, most of which open their doors to visitors. I dropped in on the Boutari Winery – the oldest on the island – for a quick tour, followed by a (much) longer tasting session. Here’s what I learned…
Vines grow in the shape of a basket
Unlike most vines, which grow upwards on trellises, the vines in Santorini are coiled into a basket shape at ground level – in fact, to the untrained eye, they don’t look like vines at all. This compact formation means they’re protected from the harsh winds and high temperatures that hit the island. Because the soil here is so dry, the vines get most of their moisture from the humidity in the air.
Assyrtiko is the island’s flagship grape
White Assyrtiko grapes make up 70% of the grapes grown on Santorini. They produce dry, full-bodied wines with citrus aromas and a high alcohol content. Thanks to the island’s volcanic soil, the wines have a distinct mineral character, as well. My favourite was the Boutari’s Santorini wine, which is 100 per cent Assyrtiko. The Selladia, which contains a mix of Assyriko and Aidani grapes, was a close second.
Dessert wine is big business
The Assyrtiko grape is also used to make the island’s famous dessert wine, called Vinsanto. Laws dictate that Vinsanto wine must contain at least 50 per cent Assyrtiko, with smaller amounts of Athiri and Aidani grapes. After harvest, the grapes are left to dry out in the sun, before undergoing a long, slow fermentation. They’re then aged in a barrel for at least 3 years. The result is a deliciously sweet, amber-coloured tipple.