Based on experience, when you ask consumers if they prefer white or red wine, red is usually the winner. I would hate to disappoint you, but welcome to Santorini: the island of white wines.
Well, there are some interesting reds but the star here in Santorini is a really unique grape named Asyrtico. Asyrtico covers the biggest part of the island, roughly 80%. There are two other varieties in Santorini named Aidani and Athiri. Of course there are others that are cultivated more rarely, but the above three (Asyrtico, Aidani and Athiri) participate in a blend giving us the classification PDO Santorini which stands for Protected Designation of Origin.
I know that readers of this article may search for some tasting notes about local wines, but I`ll get into that after explaining why these wines are so unique.
SANTORINI WINES ASYRTICO
As I`m always saying, it all starts from the soil. Nowadays we can find Asyrtico cultivated in quite many other parts of Greece as well as Australia but wines made from this Santorini grapes have three major characteristics:
- High Minerality
- High Acidity
- High Alcohol
As simple as that and always depending on the wine making process, Asyrtico can give us aromas that no other grape can. Stainless steel fermentation is filling up the palate with sharpness minerality and crispiness as well as some citrus aromas versus oak fermentation that brings out smoky aromas, dry fruit and nutty taste.
SANTORINI WINES NYCHTERI
Another typical Santorini wine is called Nychteri. Nychteri comes from the word “Nychta” and means “night” in Greek. In the past, they were peaking the grapes during daytime and pressing them at night trying to take advantage of the lower temperatures. It`s quite different nowadays.
For Nychteri, farmers make a late harvest so that grapes start getting dehydrated which then leads to a higher sugar content. They actually need these sugars to be converted into alcohol because this type of wine must contain a minimum of 13% vol or 26 proof.
SANTORINI WINES VINSANTO
Apart from the dry wines, Santorini is also famous for the sweet ones. I`m not a dessert wine person myself, but in that case I wouldn’t say no to a glass of Vinsanto, the typical sweet wine of Santorini. The sugar content of this wine sounds like a nightmare to people who don`t like sweet wines or to those who are on a diet. Vinsanto has roughly 220gr of sugar in each liter- but again this is where Asyrtico makes a difference. Due to its high acidity, it balances the feeling of the sweetness in the Vinsanto.
Grapes that are meant to make Vinsanto, will be late harvested – way more than the ones that are used for Nychteri Wine- and will then be left in the sun for more dehydration and for the sugar content to rise. This process varies between wine makers, so very simply the more they stay in the sun the higher the sugar. That is why there are some Vinsantos that reach almost 300 gr/liter! After fermentation, Vinsanto ages in oak for a minimum of 2-3 years.
One could never visit all these important wineries with a public bus. A good idea would be to get a Santorini rental car, or a private Santorini wine tour with our luxury VIP vans if you dont feel like driving.