The PDO Santorini (ΠΟΠ Σαντορίνη) wine production zone was established in 1971 and includes the islands of Santorini (Thira) and Thirasia.
Santorini’s vineyard is one of the oldest vineyards in the world. The vine has been cultivated in Santorini since prehistoric times. Viticulture flourishes in Santorini uninterruptedly for at least 3.500 year, as this is evidenced by archeological findings. The prehistoric vineyard was destroyed by the great eruption of Santorini’s volcano, in the 17tnh century BC, a fact that wiped out every trace of human life and vegetation in the island for almost 3 centuries.
It is in this particular ecosystem that one of the most ancient vineyards of the world has been developed, a heritage monument created by nature and human. The long-standing tradition in winemaking, is evident nowadays from the old, ungrafted, basket-trained vines, sitting in many cases on 300-year-old roots. Thanks to the locals’ effort, PDO Santorini, is the first designation of origin of Greece to be included in the National Index of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Santorini is the southernmost island of the Cycladic complex in the southern Aegean. Vineyards are seen anywhere in Santorini, especially in the island’s central and northern parts. A smaller vineyard exists also in the island of Thirassia, opposite to Santorini. The viticultural zones extend from the sea level to terraces up to about 300m. The climate can be described as typical Mediterranean with ample sunshine hours during the growing season and hot and dry summers. Winters are mild. During the prolonged period of drought, the water needs of the plants are met by the morning mists rising from the caldera. These are created by the evaporation of the sea and cover the island. At night, when the temperatures drop, the climatic conditions become relatively humid, and the volcanic soil (pumice stones) of the island absorbs the much-needed moisture for the vines. The strong northerly winds that rage during the day prevent the accumulation of moisture on the grapes.
Santorini soils are volcanic and consist of a combination of basalt, volcanic ash, sand, pumice, andesite and various other volcanic rocks. The PDO Santorini vineyard is self-rooted as the soil is sandy with a very small percentage of clay and thus it was never affected by phylloxera. This vineyard is the oldest in Greece and one of the oldest in the entire world.
Growers have developed two unique training systems to protect their vines from the strong winds (meltemia) that plague the island. The basket-trained vine “kouloura”, where the grapes are grown within the basket, or the gobelet-shaped, low-trained, “koulouraki”.
Dry wines: Assyrtiko at least 85%, Athiri, Aidani
Sweet wines: Assyrtiko at least 51%, Aidani, Athiri and small amounts of the varieties Gaidouria, Katsano, Moschato Aspro, Monemvasia, Platani, Potamisi, Roditis.
Types of wines
- Dry white wine
- Sweet wine from dried grapes
- Sweet fortified wines from dried grapes
The blending formula for dry PDO Santorini allows for at least 85% Assyrtiko and up to 15% of Athiri and Aidani. However, a great number of PDO Santorini is made from 100% Assyrtiko. The zone produces wines with unique profiles, clearly showing nuances that are specific to their terroir. These are wines of great pedigree, powerful, and intense, bursting with sea-salt minerality. Even though Assyrtiko is not aromatic, its steely, austere in youth, structure and the depth of citrus fruit, along with the high levels of acidity and alcohol, give PDO Santorini wines intense and distinctive personality. Maturation on the fine lees and sometimes in oak barrels, is often chosen in order to produce wines with a creamier and richer profile. The best wines usually need time in the bottle to smooth and soften and evolve over time into complex aromas of honey, dried fruit, nuts, herbs, spices and intense minerality.
The indication “Nykteri” refers to PDO Santorini dry wines that have at least 13.5% alcohol content and spend at least 3 months in oak barrels.
The indication “Vinsanto” refers to dessert wines that have been produced from overripe grapes, which have been left in the sun to dehydrate, so that they have at least 370g/lt. of sugar. The grapes concentrate also their acidity levels, aromas and flavors. Vinsanto wines should see a minimum of 24 months of oxidative maturation. There are also wines with indication of 4,8, 12 and so on years of ageing in the label. Vinsanto is among the best dessert wines in the world. It displays an amber-brown color and although overtly sweet there is a perfect balance due to its high acidity levels. Its flavors and aromas are very complex reminiscent of dried fruits, honey, caramel, coffee, nuts and spices, leading towards a lingering, never-ending, finish.