In the breathtaking island of Santorini, the production of wine dates back to the time of the Bronze Age.
It is however the devastating volcanic explosion, circa 1650 BC, that covered the island with volcanic ash, lava and pumice stone that created the foundation of this unique terroir.
Santorini’s unique Terroir
– Climate: Typical Mediterranean climate. Relatively warm winters with lower temperatures around 8-10°C followed by warm, windy and dry summers. The surrounding Aegean Sea acts as a “climatic buffer” that softens climate (no extremes) and reduces vintage variation.
The only source of water during the hot summer are the nocturnal fogs that cover the island.
– Soil: Light, porous, volcanic soil (pumice) rich in inorganic matter but with almost no organic matter and no clay.
The porous soils of the island help retain humidity from dew, rainfall, and moisture from the sea, ensuring an adequate water supply for the vines during the growing season
Because of its sandy constitution (0% clay) this soil is phylloxere-free.
Santorini is home to some of the oldest vines in the world – allegedly some with root stocks more than 400 years old.
– Winds: they saturate the island throughout the year. Their strength can pose a real threat to the vines. They have been known to blow down trellised vineyards in a matter of minutes.
The only way for the grapes to survive from the direct exposure of sun and strong winds is to be protected inside low-basket-shaped vines, the ampelies, as they are called locally. This is known as the traditional “kouloura” training system.
The refreshing northerly winds that blow from July to September, known as the meltemia, help in lowering temperatures and allow for slower ripening of the grapes.
They also help keep the vines at bay from the numerous fungi that can result from the combination of summer heat and humidity.
Assyrtiko in Santorini
– Assyrtiko is arguably the “noblest” Mediterranean white grape variety. Indigenous to Santorini Island.
– Profile: in Santorini, it produces bone-dry white wines with unique personality and powerful character: full-bodied, well-structured with crisp acidity, rich minerality and subtle citrus aromas. They can be aged for more than 10 years.
– Maintains high acidity at ripeness and a high phenolic content with a PH level reminiscent of cool regions such as the Loire Valley.
– Extremely low yields: natural consequence of the old vines, the volcanic soils, the hydric stress and the strong winds of Santorini’s unique terroir. The result is depth, concentration, and richness. Normal yields are close to 20-25 hl/ha (half of Bordeaux’s), often even dipping below 10 hl/ha.