Unique Santorini Winemaking! Hidden Grapes! Circular Vines! Tasting Assyrtiko Wine!

Discover Santorini’s “Hidden” Grapes!

As part of our trip to Greece last summer, my wife Alex and I spent five day on the magical island of Santorini…I have linked to many of our adventures at the end of this story, but one of the most fascinating things we did was taste their island’s unique wine!

Yes, These Are Vines!

This unique Santorini vineyard is actually growing grapes! This varietal is called Assyrtiko, one of several on the island, and it has a unique method of growing!

Since Alex and I go to Napa regularly, we were expecting vines that looked like this:

As you can see, this vineyard has vines growing 4-5 feet high, and the fruit hangs off the branches…but on Santorini, they hug tightly to the ground!

Wine has been produced on Santorini since ancient times, but during the Middle Ages, the island’s wine growing fortunes increased dramatically!

Santorini’s flagship grape is called “Assyrtiko”. Here’s how it is described on wikipedia:

“It’s a high acid grape full of citrus and mineral nuances. It can be enjoyed on its own or with grilled fish and meats. The grape is often referred to as a “white grape in red’s clothing,” due to the full-bodied wines it produces with an average of 13.5% alcohol.”

That is, if you can find the grapes!

You see, there is a very unique method of growing these grapes!

Located in the Aegean Sea, Santorini has warm temperatures, low rainfall but high humidity during the growing season. The area is subjected to strong winds coming off the oceans which can damage the vines and grapes – so they are grown very low to the ground – and even covered by their own branches!

The soil is composed of volcanic ash and rocks. The subsoils – called “calcareous” – are porous, which helps retain the humidity in the air and release it as moisture in the night for the vines to use!

Because this island gets virtually NO rain!

We learned that, due to the lack of water, a new plant is given just enough to survive for two years, then they are on their own!

Of course, after seeing how it’s grown, the next step was to taste some!

Estate Argyros is the largest and most famous of the island wineries: it was established in 1903, but the Argyros family has been involved in wine production for decades before that. It is the largest private owner of vineyards in Santorini!

Their winery overlooks the Aegean Sea on the opposite side of the island from the Caldera – and the views are gorgeous here!

We were given a tour, and they explained how they “wrap” the vines by hand as they grow, which allows the leaves to grow over the grapes, protecting them from the hot sun and keep them close to the ground…

We then tasted all of their white wines, but this Cuvee is their gem: light but with strong mineralogy, due to how hard the vines work in this gravelly soil…it was refreshing and delicious!

Of course, this was just one of our magical adventures on Santorini:

We also hiked the caldera trail from our Hotel all the way to Oia – in 94 degree weather!

Click here to see how we did:

Along with hiking to Oia, we also made the LONG hike down to their pot, where we had some incredible Octopus:

And just how long was this trek? Click to see!

If you’ve been following along on our Greek adventure, you know that this isn’t the only hiking adventure we went on:

Skaros Rock was right outside our room…it was not only used as a backdrop for incredible photo shoots like this one, but you can climb it too! So we did!

See that terrifying ordeal here: 

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If you enjoy these moments, please share on social media – and get ready for more Greek adventures….let me know if you’ve been!

Categories: Exotic Travel, Food, food blog, Memoirs, nature, Travel, Travel Adventures, Travel Memoir, wine

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

14 replies

  1. This is so interesting, John. Our grapes here are fat and plump, very different to these. I am quite keen to write a story about the French Huguenots that came to South Africa and brought their wine making skills with them.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My sister-in-law retired a year ago from Domaine Carneros in Napa. Have you ever been there?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Fascinating, John. You must have been shocked to see the vines so close to the ground. Well, survival of the fittest comes into play, and clearly this vineyard is proof. This is another plus to your wonderful plus to Greece.


  4. Wow I’ve only seen vineyard the pic above of Napa…When the place changes, What we believed as “common sense” could change dramatically and it’s absolutely amazing! Thank you for sharing, John!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I usually stick to Red wine, but I would definitely want to taste that unusual grape.
    (Kumala South African Shiraz with my dinner this evening.)
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person


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