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Ep 336: Santorini, Greece and it's divine white of Assyrtiko

Wine for Normal People

Release Date: 07/29/2020

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Santorini is one of Greek wine's guiding lights. The wines from this ancient volcanic island are unlike any other – exhibiting fullness, smoky minerality, and acidity that you won’t find elsewhere. The whites of Assyrtiko are among the best Greece has to offer. The fascinating history and legacy of viticulture will transport you to this lovely Mediterranean paradise. In this show, we take you on the ultimate armchair travel destination: the island of Santorini, a Greek paradise!

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More Episodes

Santorini is one of Greek wine's guiding lights. The wines from this ancient volcanic island are unlike any other – exhibiting fullness, smoky minerality, and acidity that you won’t find elsewhere. The whites of Assyrtiko are among the best Greece has to offer. The fascinating history and legacy of viticulture will transport you to this lovely Mediterranean paradise. In this show, we take you on the ultimate armchair travel destination: the island of Santorini, a Greek paradise!

Here are the show notes:

  • Santorini is at 36.4 N latitude, in the Cyclades group of islands.  
  • The region has 2200-2900 acres/900-1,200 hectares of land are under vine
  • Santorini was formed by an enormous volcanic eruption around 2,600 years ago
  • Wine has been made since the ancient Greek and Roman times but a Venetian crusader took over in 1336 and made the sweet wines of the Assyrtiko grape, Vinsanto, popular around the Mediterranean

  • On the poor, volcanic soil on this hot windy island, the grapes are trained via an ancient pruning system, called “kouloura." The trunk is trained into a basket-like or wreath-like shape so the grapes hang on the of the basket, protected from wind and harsh sun
  • Some of these basket trained vines may be over 400 years old; with Assyrtiko making up 70-80% of the plantings. 

 

  • In this dry, harsh climate with less than 10 inches of rain per year, grapes struggle. They're well adapted to the heat and wind, and the diurnal temperature swing at night helps them maintain their characteristic acidity.
  • Reds: Mandilaria and Mavrotragano  represent 20% of Santorini's vineyards. 
    • Mavrotragano:used to only be for sweet wines. But it does seem to have good potential for dry wines'
    • Mandilaria (which M.C. Ice believes is picked by Baby Yoda) is grow around Greece and is tart and tannic, and often better in blends

  • White: Assyrtiko with Athiri and Aidani
    • Assyrtiko is a tough skinned variety. Drought, wind, and heat resistant. Regardless of heat, it maintains its acidity as it ripens. high acid grape. It makes a dry Wie with citrus, mineral, smoke, pumice, lemon rind, jasmine aromas and a saline, stony, quality when you taste it. The wines are full bodied. 
    • Athiri is sweet, fruity and aromatic with lower acidity so it's a good blending partner with Assyrtiko. Aidani is similar.

Types of wine

  • Santorini PDO: is 75% or more Assyrtiko, 25% Athiri and/or Aidani. 
  • Nykteri: the Greek term for 'working all night', the grapes are  harvested at night to avoid the hot temperatures. The wine is at least 75% Assyrtiko with Athiri and Aidani. It is aged in oak for a minimum of 3 months, and creates a dry, high acid wine with  mineral, citrus, and peach flavors and aromas.

  • Sweet Vinsanto: This dessert wine has great acidity to
  • offset the dried orange peel, fig, and apricot aroma always with a salty mineral note, typical of Assyrtiko (the wine must be at least 51% of this grape with Aidani and Athiri).
    • Vinsanto as a name, comes from the Venetian era of dominance - wines from the island were labeled, “Santo,” for Santorini -- “vin” or “vino”,  the Italian word for wine -- Vinsanto. The EU recognizes this as a separate, distinct, historical product only from Santorini and different from Italy's "Vin Santo"

 

Producers we mention: Hatzidakis, Estate Argyros, Gaia, J Boutari & Son, Vassaltis, Venetsanos, Domaine Sigalas, Gavalas, Santos

 

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