Santorini wines and Greek wine in general have come a long way and have finally shaken off the Retsina reputation. Fortunately Santorini is blessed with some of the best vineyards in the Greek Islands.
There are some very good wineries on Santorini producing some of the finest wines available anywhere in the world. The volcanic eruption that shaped the island around 1500 BC left deposits of volcanic ash, lava and pumice stone. This eventually developed into the perfect soil for wine growing. Some of the vineyards of Santorini are extremely old and train the vines into a basket shape to protect the growing grapes from the scorching summer sun and the sometimes fierce Meltemi wind.
Three Santorini wines are in the category of "name of origin of top quality" and belong to the group of European Union wines "quality wines produced in determined region". They are Nykteri, Assyrtiko and Vinsanto.
Nykteri takes it name from the Greek word meaning 'night work'. Traditionally the grapes were picked before dawn so that the grapes would be cool before the hot sun could burst them.
Assyrtiko is the most popular white variety and represents 80% of the total cultivated varieties producing full bodied wines of high acidity and aroma.
Vinsanto is a traditional wine of Santorini. Sun dried grapes are laid on the ground in the sun usually for a period of around 15 days and then undergo a long, slow fermentation. This produces a golden honey coloured sweet wine. Many of the Wineries on Santorini produce Vinsanto and it is probably the most well known of the wines of Santorini
The main grape varieties used in Santorini wine making are:
This variety is often described as Greece's best white wine grape. The Santorini whites in which it plays a dominant role are among the most elegant in Greece.
This variety is found on Santorini. Far lower in acidity and sugar than the Asyrtiko, with which it is usually blended; it contributes to its wines somewhat exotic floral aromas. It plays a secondary, but important role in Santorini, where it is featured in dry and semi-dry blends with Asyrtico and Athíri within the AO zone of Thirassia and in Vinsanto.
Athiri is planted and vinified widely, not only on the Aegean Islands, but in places on the surrounding mainland as far north as Halkidikí and as far west as Lakonía in Peloponessos. Although impossible to prove, there is a general consensus among historians and writers this is the same grape known as Theriaki in Ancient times.
The most widely planted red variety in the Aegean, Mandilaria leans towards the tannic (mildly astringent, unless aged) and is generally–but not always–low in alcohol. On Santorini, Paris Sigalas blends Mandilaria with the riper Mavrotragano to produce a rich and smoky wine competitive with New World Zinfandel and Syrah for its boldness and concentration.
Near extinction not long ago, Mavrotragano is local cultivar on Santorini that is in the midst of revival by some of that Island's most earnest producers. Like Cabernet, its bunches contain small grapes. The variety, because it naturally achieves high sugar levels, was traditionally used in the production of sweet wines.
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