Santorini for wine lovers

Sunset on the Greek island of Santorini

Savvas Kyriakidis takes us by the hand around this popular Greek island. See this guide to all the entries in our travel writing competition that have been published so far.

‘What an amazing circumstance', I thought when I read the announcement of this competition at the end of June. I was about to travel to Santorini, the absolute ambassador of Greek wine around the globe, and I was ecstatic. Of course, all of you, I believe, already know Santorini, the little volcanic island in the middle of the Aegean Sea. You know it for its iconic sunset, or its breathtaking caldera view. I’m sure most of you know it for its wines, made mostly from Assyrtiko, the local variety that has been gaining such a reputation over the last few years. Maybe many of you know that Santorini’s vineyards are some of the oldest vineyards in the world, as they were never devastated by phylloxera. Some of you may also know that today there are rootstocks over 350 years old on the island, while vines are trained with the unique traditional kouloura method, conditions that make the vineyards of Santorini an actual vine museum.

Visiting Santorini you will find several wineries that offer more than tastings and guided tours, so I decided to separate the island in three: the centre, the south, and the north.

The Centre

Gaia Wines Being just next to the airport of Santorini, Gaia is the first winery one can visit, soon after hopping off the plane. Built on the beach with a view of the Aegean, the winery was a tomato factory from the early 1900s, before being renovated with respect to a modern winery that uses the latest technologies of winemaking. One of the 10 wineries around the world that uses the under-sea ageing technique, for its Thalassitis Submerged, an exceptional wine from Assyrtiko that ages for five years 25 metres beneath the Aegean Sea’s surface.

Koutsoyannopoulos Wine Museum One of the top five wine museums in the world. Here you can watch the wine life of the island from 1660 to 1970 as presented by moving and still figurines. Audio guide in 14 languages and guidebook in 22.

Karamolegos Winery In 2004 Artemis Karamolegos took over the family winery and decided to put on the map such local traditional varieties as Aidani, Mavrotragano and Voudomato. Since then, Karamolegos’ wines have reached top quality and are internationally recognised. Last year, their Assyrtiko 2016 was awarded Best in Show in the Decanter World Wine Awards. Don’t miss Mystirio/14, the first natural orange wine from Assyrtiko.

Aroma Avlis Food & Wine is actually Karamolegos’ restaurant. Just next to the winery, offers Greek and Mediterranean cuisine, with the vegetables and herbs from the garden of the restaurant. It also offers cooking lessons for those who would like to gain knowledge of the local products and cuisine.

Canava Roussos & Restaurant is the oldest winery on the island, dating back to 1836. In August visitors have the opportunity to experience the traditional method of pressing, stomping the grapes by foot, participating actively in the winemaking process.

Estate Argyros The vineyard of Episkopi is one of the oldest on the island, more than 200 years old. The winery is surrounded by the vineyard that is fertilised with composted must and ploughed with mules. Argyros’ Vinsanto made from sundried grapes and aged for 20 years in barrel is one of the best natural sweet wines in the world. The 1992 vintage scored a perfect 100 points in Wine & Spirits magazine.

Art Space Winery & Museum In the old rakidio distillery there is pre-industrial distilling equipment and photos showing the life of  wine growers almost a century ago. The old kanava, winery in the local dialect, dating back to 1861, is now an impressive art gallery. Wine tastings presented by Antonis Argyros himself, the owner. An amazingly passionate man, he inspires with the love he has for his vineyards and wines.

Volcanic Slopes Vineyards Winery The winery produces only one high quality wine, Pure Santorini. The wine is produced from 200-year-old vineyards, adopting a hands-off approach, using natural yeasts and minimal human intervention. The vertical tasting through the vintages is exceptional.

SantoWines Winery One of the most modern wineries of the country and the biggest wine producer on the island. The research part of the winery has created a genetic material bank including all the varieties found on the island. The winery welcomes over 400,000 visitors every year, while the caldera view is remarkable.

Venetsanos Winery The first industrial winery of the island, built in 1947. Its unique vertical structure uses gravity for winemaking as the winery is built in four levels, each one for a different part of the process. The astonishing view of the caldera it offers makes a visit essential.

The South

Selene Restaurant Selene is itself a reason to visit Santorini. For more than 30 years this innovative restaurant promotes the local cuisine, keeping service and menu ideas at top quality levels. The wine list includes some of the rarest Santorinian wines.

Gavalas Winery A small family business, having a winemaking history since the late 1800s. Four generations of winemakers, with the latest giving prominence to Katsano and Gaidouria, two local varieties. This is the only winery in Greece that uses blue bottles for its Santorini label. Vinsanto Gavalas was awarded as Best Sweet Wine in the 19th international Japan Wine Challenge.

Alisachni Art & Wine Gallery Open just a couple of months but it has already become the talk of the town. A century-old mansion has been restored and divided into a minimal chic wine bar, restaurant and an art gallery. The wine list, including some of the best local and Greek wines, complements the great menu that offers a variety of local dishes.

Hatzidakis Winery The only winery with certified organic viticulture. The late Haridimos Hatzidakis, the founder of the winery, was known as ‘the wizard of wine’. He was the producer of some of the most sensational Greek wines of all time such as the Assyrtiko de Louros, Vignes Centenaires.

Boutari Winery One of the most historic and awarded wineries in Greece. Among the six best wineries in the world according to the Wine & Spirits magazine and one of the ‘ten architectural wonders of the wine world’. Today’s reputation of the island’s wines started thanks to the Boutari winery, as did some of the most important oenologists of Santorini who began their career here. Boutari is also the pioneer of the wine tourism, being the first to offer guided tours and tastings to visitors from all over the world.

The North

The Wine Bar One of the best places to watch the famous sunset. An old natural cave that was once a cellar, it offers a quiet and atmospheric environment for wine and food lovers. The menu is limited but with high quality dishes and the wine list includes a variety of award-winning Greek wines.

Avantis Cellar Doors This new cellar opened its doors in spring  2019 and offers an amazing experience for the wine lover. Tastings of the awarded Avantis wines, wine pairings with local dishes, tours around the cellar, and Greek cooking lessons are all on offer. There is even a session of grape therapy where visitors can relax with the help of a therapist.

Vassaltis Winery The newest entry on the island, established just in 2014, is already a benchmark winery. The young and talented oenologists Ilias Roussakis and Yannis Papaoikonomou have not only introduced some of the best wines in recent years, they also experiment in a lot of fields trying to represent the unique character of Santorini in their wines. Plethora, the flagship wine, is a must-try.

Sigalas Winery Sigalas is one of the most respected winemakers in Greece. His wines are exported all over the world, being a key factor in the reputation Assyrtiko has gained globally. The amazing tasting in the winery is accompanied with traditional delicacies chosen by the chef of the winery restaurant.

Oia Vineyart A cosy, cool balcony in the heart of Oia. The staff are polite and knowledgeable. The wine list is maybe the only one that includes wines from all the winemakers of the island, counting 19 local wineries and almost 180 labels. There is also a store where you can buy local products, beers and, of course, wines.

Sphinx Wine Restaurant The old captain’s house was transformed to a restaurant and the old water tank of the building became a cellar. The result is more than impressive. Sphinx offers a Mediterranean menu based on products grown on its own biodynamic farm. The wine list offers more than 400 labels of Greek and international wines.