Santorini wines: of lava and men

Santorini and wine history

5.000 years of cultivation, fighting against wild nature, to produce a unique white wine

Santorini wines  are known from wine lovers for more than a decade but the island of Santorini, like Crete, boasts of a long wine history since it has been discovered traces of vine cultivation dating back more than 5000 years. The Minoans were, together with the Egyptians, the first to mechanize the winemaking process by creating mechanical presses. The first Minoan trace, dating from nearly 1700 BC, was found in the locality of Vathipetro near Heraklion. The Minoans have made the island of Santorini a great shopping center, it is not surprising to find the vineyard. But on this volcanic island, the vineyard has experienced a notable evolution linked to volcanic activity.

The numerous eruptions, the most powerful of which is around 1600 to 1500 BC, give the soil of the island a strong presence of volcanic lava. The ground is composed mainly of shale and limestone on which were deposited slag, volcanic ashes, pumice,… the ideal conditions for a strong minerality. The climate is special, ven extreme. Little rain, wind, and intense sun in the summer make viticulture more complex. But man knows how to adapt, like the vine. In Santorini, the low vine is cultivated in circles to protect it from the wind and the sun. The vines are cut in circles, in «low basket» «Kouloura «in Greek and the grapes grow there in the center, protected from the winds and from part of the sun.

The current of the sea allows in the evening to refresh the vines which, during the day, have drunk of the sun. This avoids the overmaturity of the grapes. Not forgetting a very selective size that offers a very low yield of 25 hl/ hectare. A long tradition that usually goes hand in hand old vines (often more than 60 years). This longevity is explained by the very composition of the soil, poor in clay and less conducive to certain diseases. Thus, the vineyard of Santorini has not experienced an epidemic of phyloxera. Santorini wine enjoyed great fame when the island was administered by the Venetians who marketed vinsanto (vino di Santorini commonly known as vinsanto later. Not to be confused with the wine Santo of Tuscany, the «holy wine» of dessert.) The main varieties of the island are Assyrtiko, Athiri, Aidani, Mavrotragano, Katsano, Mandilaria and Gaidouria. The mineral character is diffused and along with the concentration, is what characterizes the wines of Santorini. Assyrtiko of Santorini is one of the Greek varieties with the greatest aging potential. With aging it acquires petrol and honey notes that give it a Riesling like character.

The different wines of Santorini

Santorini, Nyxteri et Vinsanto


This is the majority of Santorini wines. This wine wine must contain at least 75% of the Assyrtiko grape variety. The remaining 25% may be composed of Aidaini and/or Athiri. They are wines of good acidity, generally not aged in oak barrels, with notes of citrus fruits and a certain minerality.


This wine must contain at least 75% of the Assyrtiko grape variety. The remaining 25% may be composed of Aidaini and/or Athiri. This wine has the particularity of being vinified with grapes harvested at night, as its name indicates (from the Greek Nikta, at night). The wine is usually vinified in stainless steel vats and placed in barrels for a minimum of three months, which often confers, in addition to citrus fruits, secondary aromas of butter and almonds. According to some oenologists, Asyyrtiko has a small tendency to «knead» (a small smell of petroleum that disappears with aeration)


A special winemaking process that is an integral part of the island’s history. It is the wine that has enjoyed considerable historical success during the Venetian administration of the island, during the Middle Ages. This wine must contain at least 51% of the Assyrtiko grape variety.The remaining 49% can be made up of Aidaini and/or Athiri.There may be a more complex assembly with other local grape varieties in small quantities. The grapes are harvested late and dried in the sun for 10 to 14 days before being crushed with an addition of 9% alcohol (natural sweet wine method) or alcohol or wine distillate of at least 15% for the liqueur wine method. Both methods are then aged in oak barrels for a minimum of 24 months. This method brings to the wine a very particular color of an orange brown and aromas very carried on dried fruits, jammed (honey, fig, date, walnut,…), raisins, spices. In the mouth, beautiful general balance between sugar and the natural acidity of the Assyrtiko grape variety for a nice length also

Santorini wines

In 3 tastings

Santorini Sigalas estate

Type: dry white wine
Vintage: 2017
Varietals: Assyrtiko 100%
Denomination: PDO Santorini

Beautiful acidity and presence on the nose and in the mouth of citrus fruits. Lemon on the nose and citrus fruits, exotic fruits in the mouth. Salty notes, slightly smoky and strong mineral presence (a usual flavour in Santorini wines)

Nykteri Gavalas estate

Type: dry white wine
Vintage: 2013
Varietals: Assyrtiko 100%
Denomination: PDO Nyxteri

Gold yellow colour. Oaky nose, smoky, with notes of white flower (jasmine). In mouth, pear, quince and a slightly buttered note from the cask (6 months). A finish where acidity is balanced by spices.

Vinsanto Canava Roussos

Type: Sweet white wine
Vintage: 2001
Varietals: Assyrtiko, Aidini, Athiri
Denomination: Appelation of origin of superior quality

Amber color smoked honey. On the nose, as expected from a vinsanto having aged more than 24 months oak cask: notes of candied dried fruit, nuts and also dried tomato. Then come more subtle notes of chocolate, roasted coffee. Same impression in mouth rounded by a touch of honey. Impressive finish of length. A fantastic chord on a foie gras with figs, or even  more surprising, with cocoa. Not disappointed about what we expected from these desert Santorini wines

Map of Santorini wineries

A small island but many places to taste Santorini wines
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