Text Size:-+
07.09.2011

Santorini Wines: Reviews and Impressions

20110627-IMG_9926.jpgAs many of you readers know, I spent about 10 days in Greece on a press trip a couple of weeks ago, and I've been busy working through my notes from the trip.

The primary place I visited during this trip was the tiny island of Santorini. While the name Santorini is well known as a picturesque resort, most people aren't aware of its status as one of Greece's most famous wine regions.

I wrote earlier in the week about the remarkable history and methods of viticulture on the island of Santorini (which if you haven't read, I suggest breezing through before you read this article), and made some general comments about the wines.

Now it's time to look at the wines in more detail.

I've never been in a position to so authoritatively offer my impressions of a wine region. In a matter of about 4 days, I visited all 10 wineries on the island, and tasted nearly all the wines they produce. I offer my notes and scores on them below, but before diving into the individual wineries and their wines, some more background on the wines of Santorini may be helpful.

As I noted earlier in the week, Santorini produces mostly white wine, and a few reds, nearly exclusively from indigenous grape varieties. Dominant among these is the white grape Assyrtiko, which is grown using ancient dry-farming methods, and which yields bracing, mineral-driven wines that have a surprisingly tannic structure for whites, often accompanied by a saline aspect thanks to the soils and the sea air in which they grow.

Assyrtiko (sometimes spelled Assyrtico, thanks to less than regular translation rules between the Greek and western alphabets) along with the two other dominant white grapes, Aidani and Athiri, are made mostly into dry white wines, with the exception of the island's most famous wine, Vinsanto.

Vinsanto is the crown jewel of Santorini wines. Famous for more than 1000 years, this sweet dessert wine, made from a blend of Assyrtiko, Aidani, and Athiri that is aged in oak casks for at least 3 years, can be quite profound in its best incarnations, taking on rich flavors of caramel and Angostura bitters while maintaining incredible acidity.

The dry whites made from Assyrtiko tend to fall into one of two varieties: steel tank fermented and aged, and oak fermented and aged. Most producers make at least one of each kind of Assyrtiko. Both versions have extremely high acidity, making them perfect for the island's seafood-driven cuisine. I'm personally on a quest to pair Assyrtiko with oysters, as I think they're likely to be a wonderful match.

Assyrtikos that are fermented and aged in oak often bear the name Nikteri (or Nykteri or Nychteri) which is a protected and regulated name designation like Tokaji or Sauternes, though there isn't a place named Nykteri. Niktas means "night" in Greek, with "Nicteri" meaning "night shift" or something close to it, which used to be the colloquial way of referring to the harvest on Santorini, which often took place at night.

These days, Nikteri wines simply refer to wines made from Assyrtiko that have had a minimum of 3 months aging in oak barrels before bottling. Many of these wines are quite interesting, as Assyrtiko seems to do well in oak, at least up to a point. I found many examples of over-oaked wines that had lost their fundamental character to wood. But those that kept the oak restrained often resulted in rich, characterful wines with a remarkable savoriness.

The other, frankly confusing designation that can be found on the island's white wines is the name "Santorini." And by this, I don't mean simply a reference to where the wine is from. Most producers actually make a wine called "Santorini" which, like Nikteri, is a protected and regulated name that can be applied to a tank aged white wine that is either 100% Assyrtiko, or more often, a blend of Assyrtiko, Athiri, and Aidani.

There are also red grapes grown on the island, though, I must admit, only a few really good red wines are made from them. The heat and sunlight of the island's climate prevent truly fresh red wines from being made, and instead the reds tend to have a cooked and dried quality to them, though there are exceptions to this generalization.

By far the most interesting use of red grapes on the island seems to be for rosé wines, of which there are a few truly exceptional examples, all made from blending one or more of the island's indigenous red grapes with Assyrtiko, occasionally co-fermenting the two.

The wines of Santorini are nothing short of astonishing, both for their simple existence in a climate and location that are both remarkably hostile to agriculture, as well as for their quality and value.

By the time I left the island, I was deeply in love with Assyrtiko as a grape, especially with a little age on it. Bracing, even austere in its minerality when young, like Riesling Assyrtiko gains secondary flavors and aromas that lean towards petrol, paraffin, and other phenolics over time. Just a couple of years into bottle aging, Assyrtiko starts to take on some very interesting characteristics that make for fantastic drinking. The well executed versions of Nikteri wines can have a Burgundian richness that is also very compelling. An indigenous grape variety that has a wonderfully unique character, that makes ageworthy, excellent wines is a treasure indeed.

Add to these wines the fantastic rosés that the island produces, and the unique and fantastic Vinsantos, which are further evidence of the treasure that Assyrtiko represents, and you have a truly exceptional wine region, all the more remarkable and noteworthy given the average price of its wines hovers somewhere in the $22 range. My impressions of Greece overall will have to wait for another post, but Santorini offers an indication of what fantastic wine values await in this country.

One final thought before speaking about the individual producers, and that is about the overall quality of wines from the island. The less successful red wines aside, it's pretty hard to find a lousy bottle of wine with the word "Santorini" on it, which is quite remarkable. Sure, there were some wines that I didn't particularly care for. But of the nearly 80 white wines reviewed below, simply choosing one at random, for $20 would likely result in a great deal of satisfaction for any discerning wine lover. The island is simply a great source of serious, food-friendly wines at great prices. I cannot recommend highly enough that you seek out (yes, unfortunately it will take some effort) these wines.

What follows below are the tasting notes and scores for all the wines I tasted from Santorini, grouped by producer. Where I know for a fact that the wines can be purchased online, I've provided a link to do so. Most of the wines that have prices provided for them are imported to the United States (prices were provided by the wineries), though most, as you can see are not available for sale online. I have provided importer information for each winery to make it as easy as possible for you to get ahold of a wine you're interested in.


Santo Wines

Santo Wines is actually the island's long standing cooperative winery. All of the wine made on the island used to be made by a cooperative, with all the small family farmers bringing their fruit in to be made into wine in one place. Found in 1947 it is the island's largest producer, vinifying roughly 70% of the grapes grown on the island. For a cooperative, Santo makes exceptionally high quality wines, some of which are among the greatest values on the island.

US IMPORTER: Vareli Wines, Hicksville, NY. www.vareliwines.com


2010 Santo Wines Aidani
Light yellow-gold in color, this wine smells of candied apples and lemon zest. In the mouth it offers golden delicious apples and wet stone flavors with good acidity. Somewhat simple. 14% alcohol. Score: between 8 and 8.5.

2010 Santo Wines Assyrtiko
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon zest, wet stones, and hints of baked apples. In the mouth the wine is zingy and bright with lemon pith and super juicy acidity. Notes of wet chalkboard linger in the finish. Bright and crisp and quite refreshing, in a way that belies its 15% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9.

2006 Santo Wines Assyrtiko
Light yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of petrol and old parchment with a hint of waxiness. In the mouth the wine offers mineral and saline flavors with notes of lemon curd, chamomile, and paraffin. Beautiful and elegant, with a mouthwatering quality, this wine is quite quaffable. 13% alcohol. Score: around 9.

2002 Santo Wines "Ampelia" White Blend
Medium yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of petrol and paraffin. In the mouth, wonderful mineral and lemon wax flavors mix with notes of crushed stones and yellow flowers. Hints of dried herbs emerge on the finish. A nice saline quality makes this wine quite gulpable. Made from organic vineyards and fermented with indigenous yeasts. A blend of 85% Assyrtiko, 5% Athiri, and 10% Aidani. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9.

2010 Santo Wines Nykteri White Blend
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon peel, cold cream, and a hint of salinity. In the mouth the wine offers a wonderfully saline, lemony flavor with cold cream and deep minerals. Perhaps not quite as complex as it could be, the wine is still lovely, with a slightly spicy finish. Aged for three months in 20% new French oak. A blend of 85% Assyrtiko, 10% Athiri, and 5% Aidani. 15% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $24

2007 Santo Wines Nykteri White Blend
A bright medium yellow in the glass, this wine smells of neon candied lemon and hints of petrol with salty overtones and hints of brimstone. In the mouth wonderfully saline lemon zest and cold cream mix with a crystalline minerality that is frankly stunning. Gorgeously delicious. A blend of 85% Assyrtiko, 10% Athiri, and 5% Aidani. 14% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5.

2008 Santo Wines Grande Reserve Assyrtiko
Light yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of vanilla and lemon blossoms. In the mouth silky textures deliver wonderfully saline flavors of lemon curd, salted butter, and crushed stones, with a hint of smokiness. Harmonious, balanced, and mouthwateringly delicious, but with a hint of alcoholic heat on the finish. Made from very old vineyards, with vines more than 100 years old. Aged for 1 year in used French oak barrels and one year in bottle before release. 15% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5.

2004 Santo Wines Vinsanto
Medium amber in the glass, this wine smells of burnt orange peel, caramel, and brown sugar. In the mouth the wine has a wonderful juiciness, with candied orange and lemon peel flavors, dried mango, and caramelized brown sugar. It offers a long brown sugar finish. A blend of 85% Assyrtiko and 15% Aidani. Moderately sweet with great acidity, and 11% alcohol. Score: around 9.

NV Santo Wines "8 Year" Vinsanto
Medium chocolate brown in the glass, this wine smells of crushed herbs, chocolate, coconut and candied orange peel. In the mouth candied orange, candied tropical fruits like mango, papaya, and pineapple and hints of coffee and toffee linger through a long finish. Good acidity and moderate sweetness. A blend of 85% Assyrtiko and 15% Aidani from the past 8 vintages. 11% alcohol. Score: around 9.




gavelas.jpg

Gavalas Winery

A tiny family-owned and run operation, with winemaking done by the young Ms. Margarita Karamolegou under supervision of the third generation of the Gavalas family. Just a few steel tanks and a couple dozen barrels in an old shed, but this winery turns out some excellent wines, including one of the best reds on the island.

US IMPORTER: Dionysos Imports Monassas, VA. 703-392-7073 dionysos91@hotmail.com


2010 Gavalas "Santorini" White Blend
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of bright lemon zest and grapefruit pith. wet chalkboard, hints of tropical fruit, hints of steel as well. Tank fermented and aged. Long finish, bright and zingy. Apricot on finish. 5% Aidani, 95% Assyrtiko. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $16

2009 Gavalas Nikteri Assyrtiko
Bright yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of honey, nut skin, kumquat, and petrichor. In the mouth, tart candied lemon rind flavors mix with flavors of wet chalk amidst a silky texture and nice acidity. The wine offers a long, salty, white tea finish. Even faint tannins are evident. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $15

2010 Gavalas Katsano
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of unripe pear and wet concrete. In the mouth, mild flavors of unripe apples, wet stones, and green grass swirl amidst decent acidity. the primary grape variety here is the indigenous Katsano (plus a little bit of Gaidouria) which used to be used to make raisins, but Mr. Gavalas decided to try making wine with it. This is the only wine in Greece made from these grapes. 3050 bottles produced. 13% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $20

2010 Gavalas Xenoloo Red Blend
Light ruby in the glass, this wine smells of cherry, licorice, and incense. In the mouth the wine has a bright citrusy acidity, with stony, mineral and raspberry / cherry flavors mixed with a bitter woody quality. Tannins creep into the finish. Wonderfully bright and lively. Made similar to a rose, but darker. Spends 8 months in 4-year-old barrels. In addition to Mavrotragano and Voudomato, This wine has 5% Athiri, a white variety. This blend was developed by the owner's father. Mavrotragano means "black crunchy." Voudomato means "eye of the bull" and it is a somewhat rare, red fleshed grape. 13% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $16

2004 Gavalas Vinsanto
Dark amber in the glass, this wine smells of oiled leather and honey toasted nuts, with candied orange rinds. In the mouth, the wine offers wonderfully creamy coffee and milk with crème brulee and tres leches cake flavors. The finish tastes of raisins with a hint of tannin. Only moderately sweet with excellent acidity. The wine spends 6 years in ancient oak barrels before bottling. A blend of 80% Assyrtiko, with smaller amounts of Aidani and Athiri. 10% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $30

1999 Gavalas "Santorini" White Blend
Medium amber in the glass, this wine smells of roasted nut skins and a hint of oxidation. In the mouth the wine has a creamy nutty quality with nice acidity. Flavors of parchment and paraffin mix with wet stone and wet leaves. The finish still has that hint of saltiness that is often found in these wines. A blend of 90% Assyrtiko and 10% Aidani. 13% alcohol. Score: between 8 and 8.5.

2010 Gavalas "Iris" Regional Blend Rosé
Light ruby in the glass, this wine smells of sulfur (no surprise since it was just bottled 3 weeks ago, and which means this aroma should go away) and bright red fruit. In the mouth the wine has a bright freshness with tart cherry, a hint of smokiness, and a deep minerality. Faint tannins linger in the finish. Fantastically refreshing and stony. A blend of 90% Assyrtiko (a white grape) and 10% Mandilaria (a red). 13% alcohol. Score: around 9.

2010 Gavalas "Iris" Red Blend
Light to medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cassis and grapey aromas. In the mouth it has a purple SweetTart character and grapey flavors that mix with cassis and black cherry. Nice acidity and tannins linger in the finish. A blend of 90% Mandilaria, 10% Mavrotragano, 10% Voudomato. 13% alcohol. Score: between 8 and 8.5.



gaia.jpg

Gaia Winery

Started in 1994 by Yiannis Paraskevopoulos and Leon Karatsalos, Gaia (pronounced YAY-ah) is one of the better known wineries on the island. And for good reason. The wines, made by Mr. Paraskevopoulos, are quite exceptional, and that is even before some of them get submerged in the ocean to age in a completely oxygen free environment (a recent area of experimentation for the scuba aficionado and Bordeaux-trained enologist Paraskevopoulos). The Santorini winery is in an old mustard factory right on the beach with a cabana and pool out back.

US IMPORTER: Athenee Importers & Distributors, Hempstead, NY www.atheneeimporters.com


2010 Gaia "Thalassitis" Assyrtiko
Pale gold, nearly colorless in the glass, this wine smells of white flowers and a hint of sea air. In the mouth the wine has a tart green apple skin flavor, and along with the accompanying tannins, a smooth, silky quality. Bright quartz crystalline acidity accompanies a wonderful rainwater finish. This tasting note was made from a bottle that had been open 24 hours, and the difference between a freshly opened bottle by comparison, was stark. This wine gets more complexity with air. 13% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $27. Click to buy.

2010 Gaia "Wild Ferment" Assyrtiko
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of chamomile, sea air, and paraffin. In the mouth the wine has a wonderful waxy, green apple, lime, and lemon pith flavor, underwritten by steely minerality and cold cream flavors. A long finish. Made 50% in stainless, and 50% in new wood, of which 1/3 each was American oak, French oak, and Acacia. 13% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $32

2009 Gaia Thalassitis-Oak Fermented Assyrtiko
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon curd, wet stones, and a hint of wet wood that is very charming. In the mouth, the wine offers wonderfully saline flavors of lemon juice, steel and wet stone, with a nice silky character. Faint, powdery tannins are beautiful additions of complexity. Aged in 100% new French oak, which it holds beautifully. 14% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5.

2002 Gaia Vinsanto
Medium amber in the glass, this wine smells of burnt orange peel and bergamot, caramel and raisins. In the mouth the wine offers moderately sweet flavors of caramel, coffee, candied orange peel, and bitters amidst bright, juicy acidity. A long brown sugar finish wraps up the package. A blend of Assyrtiko, Athiri, and Aidani, though to what proportions I am not 100% certain. 11% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost:



roussos.jpg

Roussos

The oldest operating winery on the island, with continuous harvesting by the family that owns it since 1836, and some wines still made in Russian oak barrels that are more than 100-years-old (see photo), Roussos makes one of the most interesting and unique red wines on the island. Their vine covered terrace outside their tasting room is one of the island's more idyllic spots to spend an hour or three.

US IMPORTER: Vingreco Wines - Petropoulos Inc., Clemmons, NC. www. vingrecowines.com


2007 Roussos Nykteri Assyrtiko
Light yellow gold in the glass, this wine smells of wet stones, parchment, and petrol, with a distinct oxidative character like fino sherry. In the mouth the wine has a nice mineral and nut skin quality, with fainter lemon and pomelo zest flavors, but generally is quite austere. A distinctive savory style that is not for everyone, but which recalls some funky oxidative Chenin Blancs from the Loire valley. 14% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $20

2001 Roussos Nykteri White Blend
A deep rich medium gold in the glass, this wine smells of nut skin and wet leaves. In the mouth, flavors of wet leaves, earth, and resins mix with an odd funkiness that isn't entirely pleasing. Softer acids. Incomplete or just over the hill. A blend of Assyrtiko and Athiri. 14% alcohol. Score: around 6.

2004 Roussos "Caldera" Regional Blend
Light cloudy ruby in the glass, this wine has a bright redcurrant and raspberry aroma. In the mouth the wine offers very tart sour cherry and redcurrant flavors with mouth coating tannins and deep crushed stone minerality. Fantastic acidity and that deep stone quality make this a very distinctive wine that reminds me a bit of reds from the Savoie region of France and their tart grapes like Poulsard. One of the more unique red wines made on Santorini and quite delicious. A blend of red Mandilaria, and white Assyrtiko. 12% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $20

2002 Roussos "Athiri" White Blend
Beautiful, perfect amber color in the glass, this wine smells of caramelized wood and coffee candy. In the mouth the wine has remarkably aggressive tannins for a white dessert wine, and woody, moderately sweet flavors of candied raisins, caramel, and coffee nibs. Made from grapes dried for five days in the sun (less than required for Vinsanto). A blend of Assyrtiko, Aidani, and Athiri. 13% alcohol. Score: around 8. Cost: $25

2002 Roussos "Nama" Red Blend
Dark brown amber in the glass, this wine smells of exotic herbs and bitters. In the mouth, moderately sweet flavors of bitters, coffee, chocolate, and earthy caramel. Wonderfully soft leathery tannins wrap around the tongue, and linger with hints of candied citrus and licorice in the finish. Excellent acidity keeps the wine from being syrupy. The grapes, a blend of two red varieties, Mandilaria and Mavrathiro, are sun dried for 10 days. 12% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $25 Click to buy.

2006 Roussos Vinsanto
Perfect amber color in the glass, this wine smells of burnt orange rind and caramel. In the mouth the wine offers relatively simple flavors of candied orange rind, dulce de leche, and lightly maple, woody notes that linger in the finish. Only moderately sweet with decent acidity. Made from the traditional blend of Assyrtiko, Aidani, and Athiri. 12% alcohol. Score: between 8 and 8.5. Cost: $25

2001 Roussos Vinsanto
Medium amber in the glass, this wine smells of burnt coffee and brown sugar. In the mouth, bright acidity makes flavors of caramel, coffee, orange rind, and maple sugar super juicy in the mouth. Long slightly woody finish. Made from the traditional blend of Assyrtiko, Aidani, and Athiri. 9.8% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $38




Karamolegos Winery

The young Artemis Karamolegos learned how to make wine at the knee of his grandfather, who, like many on the island, made a little wine for himself each year in the garage, while selling the majority of the grapes on his land to other wineries. In 2003 Karamolegos decided that he wanted to try his hand at making wine, and took a break from his construction company to give it a go. While he hasn't stopped working construction, which is a good way to keep busy during the winter, his winery has been expanding ever since, based on his family's ownership of and access to about 30 hectares of vineyards. Karamolegos is the sole person running the winery, with help from family and friends, as well as a consulting enologist.

US IMPORTER: Hellas Import Limited, Brookline, MA. www.hellasimportltd.com


2010 Karamolegos Assyrtiko
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of salty sea air and unripe apple and pear, with a hint of yeastiness. In the mouth the wine is bright and crisp, with green apple and unripe pear flavors mixed with a bit of yeastiness. Light lemon zest flavors linger in the finish. 14% alcohol. Score: around 8. Cost: $15

2009 Karamolegos Assyrtiko
Pale yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of sea air and yellow flowers, with a nice waxy component. In the mouth the wine has a nice slippery texture and a waxy yellow flower and lemon zest profile. Slightly softer acidity than usual for this grape variety. 14% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $15

2009 Karamolegos "Santorini Barrel Aged" Assyrtiko
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of apple and pear and lemon curd. In the mouth the wine offers lemon curd and slightly briny rainwater flavors mixed with the vanilla of oak. Long lemony finish. Aged for 6 months in 50% new French oak, and slightly worse for wear because of it. A bit too much oak for my taste. 14% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $20

2009 Karamolegos "Santorini" White Blend
Light greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of candied lemon peel with a hint of petrol. In the mouth, the wine has a bright saline quality mixed with lemon curd and deeply resonant wet stones. A petrol and paraffin note creeps into the wine, along with chamomile flavors on the finish. Wonderfully balanced and tasty. A blend of Assyrtiko, Aidani, and Athiri. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $16

2010 Karamolegos "Santorini" White Blend
Light yellow gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon zest and wet stones. In the mouth the wine has a bright saline quality with lemon zest and mineral flavors that linger beautifully with nice acidity through a long finish. Refreshing. 80% Assyrtiko, 10% Aidani, 10% Athiri. 14% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $16

2010 Karamolegos Nykteri White Blend
Light yellow gold in the glass, this wine smells of cold cream and lemon juice. In the mouth it offers a very silky complexion with flavors of candied lemon peel, cold cream and the hint of vanilla and drying tannins from the oak. Delicate acidity. Fermented in steel, and then 3-4 months French oak barrel aging, 80% of which is new, which to my palate is a bit too much. A blend of Assyrtiko, Aidani, and Athiri. 14% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $19

2009 Karamolegos Nykteri White Blend
Light yellow gold in the glass, this wine smells of new oak and lemon curd with a wet stone and rainwater note. In the mouth the wine offers flavors of lemon cream and the sweet vanilla of new French oak. The oak begins to obscure much of the fruit character in the wine, unfortunately. A blend of Assyrtiko, Aidani, and Athiri. 14% alcohol. Score: between 7.5 and 8. Cost: $19

2010 Karamolegos "Terranera White" Assyrtiko
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of sea air, cucumber, and unripe apples and pears. In the mouth mineral flavors, plus unripe pears and apples linger with a rainwater coolness. Tank fermented and aged on the lees for one month. 13% alcohol. Score: between 8 and 8.5. Cost: $13

2010 Karamolegos "Terranera Rosé" Regional Blend
Light beryl red in the glass, this wine smells of red berries and wet stones. In the mouth the wine offers tart sour cherry and redcurrant flavors mixed with wet stones and a wet chalkboard finish. Decent acidity, but somewhat simple flavors that turn a little bitter in the end. A blend of white Assyrtiko and red Mandilaria. 13% alcohol. Score: between 8 and 8.5. Cost: $13

2009 Karamolegos "Terranera Red" Mandilaria
Light garnet in the glass, this wine has a nose of black fruit jam and raisins. In the mouth the wine offers very drying tannins and dried fruit flavors, which result in the overall impression of the wine being pure tannin, and not enough fruit. I find this wine very difficult to drink. 13% alcohol. Score: between 6.5 and 7. Cost: $15

2007 Karamolegos Mavrotragano
Light to medium garnet in the glass with a somewhat brownish cast, this wine smells of chocolate covered raisins. In the mouth a combination of black olive and raisin flavors mix with black tea tannins and other woody flavors that linger in the finish. Somewhat dried out and overripe. 13% alcohol. Score: around 7.5. Cost: $30

2004 Karamolegos Vinsanto
Reddish brown amber in the glass, this wine smells of woody caramel and candied orange peel. In the mouth excellent acidity makes caramel, brown sugar, and candied orange peel flavors bright and juicy. Faint tannins linger in the background. Moderately sweet. Not as complex as it could be. A blend of Assyrtiko and Aidani. 13% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $32

2005 Karamolegos Vinsanto
Medium amber brown in the glass, this wine smells of candied raisins and caramel. In the mouth the wine is moderately sweet with raisins, caramel and candied orange peel flavors that linger in the finish. Decent acidity. A blend of Assyrtiko and Aidani. 13% alcohol. Score: between 8 and 8.5. Cost: $29



Boutari


Boutari, now a large family-run conglomerate that owns many wineries throughout the world, was one of the pioneers of modern winemaking in Santorini. Beginning in the late 1970s, Boutari was one of the earliest independent wineries on the island, and successfuly integrated modern winemaking techniques with the island's traditional culture of wine, and is credited with dramatically improving the overall quality of wine on the island. Many of the island's producers and winemakers got their start working for Boutari.

US IMPORTER: Terlato Wines International, www.terlatowines.com


2010 Boutari "Santorini" Assyrtiko
Pale blond gold in the glass, this wine smells of unripe apples and hints of pineapple. In the mouth the wine is crisp and bright, with flavors of candied lemon rind and wet stone. White flowers emerge in the finish. Nice acidity. 14% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $20

2008 Boutari "Santorini" Assyrtiko
Light yellow-gold in the glass, this wine has a nose of candied lemon rind and candle wax aromas. In the mouth the wine has a bright lemon and unripe apple character, with nice notes of wax and chamomile. The finish is long and floral. Good acidity, and great balance. Very tasty. 14% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $20

2010 Boutari "Kallisti Reserve" Assyrtiko
Pale blonde in the glass, this wine smells of rainwater and lemon zest and white flowers. In the mouth the wine is quite delicate, with beautiful white floral flavors with lemon zest and lemon juice flavors welded to a crystalline core. Fantastic acidity and wonderful delicacy. Delicious. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: Not Released

2009 Boutari "Kallisti Reserve" Assyrtiko
Light yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of parchment, wax and unripe pear. In the mouth the wine has a wonderful wax and dried lemon rind flavor with dried herbs and paraffin. Very nice older character to the wine. With excellent acidity, and beautiful balance. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: Not Released

2007 Boutari "Kallisti Reserve" Assyrtiko
Light yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of minerals and chamomile and parchment. In the mouth bright lemon rind, mineral, and wet chalkboard flavors are bouncy with bright acidity. Coming from a tougher vintage, the wine doesn't knit together seamlessly. 14% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $29. Click to buy.

1989 Boutari "Kallisti Reserve" Assyrtiko
Medium gold in the glass with an orange cast, this wine smells of roasted nuts, and dried kumquat rind. In the mouth the wine still has remarkably bright acidity, with citrus flavors and nutty smoky notes of oak. The texture of the wine is quite silky. This was the first vintage of a barrel fermented Assyrtiko, and got 100% new oak treatment. A curiosity at this point, but very interesting. 12% alcohol. Score: around 8.5.

2008 Boutari Nychteri Assyrtiko
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon curd and hints of oak. In the mouth, the wine is a silky lemon curd and vanilla with deep mineral and silky texture. Long lemon pith and honey finish. Somewhat simple, but definitely tasty. 15% alcohol. Score: around 8.5.

1996 Boutari Nychteri Assyrtiko
Light gold in the glass with a hint of orange, this wine smells of nut skins and parchment. In the mouth the wine tastes of orange oil, petrol, parchment, and deep wet stones. Slightly oxidized, but with quite a lot of character. This wine was produced prior to legislation that wines bearing the name Nikteri or Nychteri must be aged in wood. It was aged in tank. 14% alcohol. Score: around 8.5.

2006 Boutari Vinsanto
Perfect amber orange in the glass, this wine smells of burnt orange peel and honey. In the mouth the wine is medium to very sweet and has explosively juicy citrus rind and honey flavors laced with brown sugar and crème brulee. The finish which is somewhat short has a light waxy quality. 13% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $30

2003 Boutari "Ampeliastos" Mandilaria
Dark brownish red in the glass, this wine smells of raisins and chocolate. In the mouth the wine has remarkable acidity and lightly powdery tannins that wrap around a core of blackberry and raspberry jam, caramel and citrus oils. A woody quality persists through a long finish with the texture of the tannins. This wine is made in the same style as Vinsanto, with grapes dried on nets in the sun before fermentation. 11% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9.




argyros.jpg

Argyros

One of the oldest producers on the island, now in its third generation of family ownership, Argyros is also unusual for owning large tracts of its own vineyard land (most other wineries simply contract from the roughly 1000 tiny family growers on the island). Making wine under its own label since 1903, the winery has become famous for its Vinsanto, which is regarded as one of the best on the island. The winery takes great pride in its history of Vinsanto production, and has the most strict aging regime on the island, releasing their wine only after 20 years of barrel aging.

US IMPORTER: Athenee Importers & Distributors, Hempstead, NY www.atheneeimporters.com


2010 Argyros "Atlantis White" White Blend
Palest greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of wet stones and lemon cucumber. In the mouth the wine offers bright and zingy citrus and mineral flavors mixed with a grassy vegetal quality. Crisp finish. A blend of 90% Assyrtiko, 5% Aidani, and 5% Athiri. 13% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $16. Click to buy.

2010 Argyros Aidani
Pale greenish gold in color, this wine smells of green melon and cucumber. In the mouth green melon and cucumber flavors layer with herbs, bright acidity and mineral flavors. Clean and crisp, with wonderful balance and great texture. 13% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $26, Click to buy.

2010 Argyros Assyrtiko
Pale gold in the glass, this wine has a nose of green herbs and wet stones. Zingy acidity and bright minerals give a stony quality to the wine, with wet chalkboard, lemon zest, yellow grapefruit, and a long pomelo finish. Mad from 50-60 year-old Assyrtiko vines. 13% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $25

2010 Argyros Estate Argyros Assyrtiko
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon blossom, sea air, and lemon cucumber. In the mouth, the wine offers striking wet stone and citrus zest with delicate and wonderful balance. Greener notes creep into the finish. Made from 150-year-old vines on average, and some are up to 200 years old. 20% of the wine ferments in old French oak and then is aged for six months in barrels. Stunning. 13% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $26

2009 Argyros "Estate Oak Fermented" Assyrtiko
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of sweet buttery oak and cold cream with notes of sea air. In the mouth the wine has a saline quality, with lemon and cold cream and sharp minerality that is accentuated by great acidity. Lemon zest and vanilla linger in the finish, but the oak is too present to my taste. 13% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $27

2010 Argyros "Atlantis Rosé" Regional Blend
Light ruby in color, this wine has a wonderfully perfumed nose of dried rose petals, watermelon, and some exotic berries. In the mouth, the wine has fantastic chalky acidity that underlies cherry and watermelon flavors that are wonderfully dry and crisp. Quite delicious, and frankly one of the better rosé wines I have put in my mouth in some time. A blend of the white 80% Assyrtiko, red 20% Mandilaria, the grapes are cofermented together. Mandili means scarf, which likely refers to the fact that the Mandilaria grapes were used to dye clothing at one point. 13% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $16. Click to buy.

2008 Argyros "Atlantis Red" Red Blend
Medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of exotic red berries and red candy and flowers. In the mouth lightly tacky tannins wrap around nice berry and cherry flavors touched with a hint of smokiness. A touch of cream sherry lingers on the finish. This wine ages for 6 months in French oak. A blend of 90% Mandilaria and 10% Mavrotragano. Very interesting. 13% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $19

2008 Argyros Mavrotragano
Dark ruby in color, this wine smells of wet earth, sweet oak, and mulberries. In the mouth, sweet oak dominates the palate, with flavors of mulberry, cassis, and leather. The tannins are chewy and rich. The wines spends 18 months in French oak, which is too much to my taste. Score: between 8 and 8.5. Cost: $45

2003 Argyros "Vinsanto Mezzo" White Blend
Light amber in the glass, this wine smells of candied orange peel and caramel. In the mouth the wine is only moderately sweet, with orange blossom water, bitters, wonderful acidity, and a long cream sherry finish. Utterly delicious, thank, in part, to remarkable acidity. This "Mezzo" version is dried only half as long as traditional Vinsanto - about 6 to 7 days in the sun. After fermentation, the wine is aged 5 years in the barrel and then two years in the bottle. A traditional blend of 80% Assyrtiko, 10% Aidani and 10% Athiri. 14% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $45

2006 Argyros Vinsanto
Medium amber in the glass, this wine has a nose of burnt orange peel and molasses with hints of bitter herbs. In the mouth the wine has tremendous, juicy acidity that makes the mouth water. Flavors of caramel, crème brulee, and café-au-lait mix with a light tannin and a hint of saltiness as well. Moderately sweet and quite delicious. A traditional blend of 80% Assyrtiko, 10% Aidani and 10% Athiri. 14% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5.


We were lucky enough to have arrived at Argyros within a few days of a major vertical tasting of their Vinsanto, and as a result they had a lot of bottles open for us to try:

1998 Argyros Vinsanto
Medium amber in the glass with a hint of orange, this wine smells of incense, Chinese herbs, and a hint of burnt orange peel. In the mouth the wine is medium sweet and it has a wonderful earthiness, with flavors of bitters, dark honey, and candied fruits. Moderate finish. This wine spent 12 years in the barrel. A traditional blend of 80% Assyrtiko, 10% Aidani and 10% Athiri. 14% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9.

1990 Argyros Vinsanto
Medium brown amber in the glass, this wine smells of bitters and wet wood mixed with dark caramelized brown sugar. In the mouth the wine has a wonderful brightness, with a vanilla caramel sweetness, and coffee-with-milk finish. Faint tannins. A traditional blend of 80% Assyrtiko, 10% Aidani and 10% Athiri. 14% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9.

1989 Argyros Vinsanto
Medium brown amber in color, this wine smells of Chinese herbs and dates. In the mouth the wine has wonderfully bright acidity, and smooth flavors of caramel, hints of citrus, and bitters. The wine has a lovely long finish that makes the mouth water. Moderately sweet. This is the winery's current release. A traditional blend of 80% Assyrtiko, 10% Aidani and 10% Athiri. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $90

1988 Argyros Vinsanto
Medium-brown amber in the glass, this wine smells of coffee and Chinese herbs with molasses. In the mouth the acidity is remarkably strong, and the tannins more aggressive, wrapping around a moderate to highly sweet core of caramel, burnt sugar, and bits of candied orange peel. The flavors are deep, complex and intense, lingering for a long time on the palate. A traditional blend of 80% Assyrtiko, 10% Aidani and 10% Athiri. 14% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5.

1987 Argyros Vinsanto
Medium brown-amber in the glass, this wine smells of Chinese herbs and dark honey. In the mouth wonderful coffee and milk flavors mix with dark brown sugar and candied citrus flavors that seem to unfold in layers for minutes on the palate. Wonderful balance amidst this Technicolor dream coat of flavors. A traditional blend of 80% Assyrtiko, 10% Aidani and 10% Athiri. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $90. Click to buy.

1986 Argyros Vinsanto
An amber chocolate brown color, this wine smells of rich Chinese herbs and dark honey. In the mouth, moderately sweet dark honey flavors mix with coffee and exotic herbs, but doesn't fully resolve itself. Characteristically high acidity and a wonderful texture. A traditional blend of 80% Assyrtiko, 10% Aidani and 10% Athiri. 14% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9.

1984 Argyros Vinsanto
Medium brown in the glass, this wine smells of dark burnt coffee and burnt citrus. In the mouth the wine has a wonderfully smooth sweetness, with remarkable acidity. Flavors of burnt orange peel, dark honey, bitters, and Chinese herbs mix seamlessly and harmoniously through a long finish that unfolds like a Russian doll, again and again. Truly remarkable. A traditional blend of 80% Assyrtiko, 10% Aidani and 10% Athiri. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9.5.

1983 Argyros Vinsanto
Medium brown in color, this wine smells of wet wood and burnt coffee. In the mouth beautiful herbal and earthy flavors mix with hints of citrus oil. Deep layering and complexity bring out coffee and cream sherry and bitters on the finish. Great acidity has this wine mouthwatering and juicy, while the flavors speak of something ancient and mysterious. Moderately sweet and quite remarkable. A traditional blend of 80% Assyrtiko, 10% Aidani and 10% Athiri. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9.5.

1982 Argyros Vinsanto
Medium chocolate brown in the glass with little chunks of sediment, this wine smells of peat and Chinese herbs and molasses. In the mouth the wine has a wonderful earthy and smooth combination of Chinese herbs, molasses, and earth. Softer on the acidity, the wine lingers for a long time with vanilla and caramel on the finish. Super tasty. A traditional blend of 80% Assyrtiko, 10% Aidani and 10% Athiri. 14% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5.

1981 Argyros Vinsanto
Medium chocolate brown in the glass with bits of sediment, this wine smells of wet tree bark, Chinese herbs, and chocolate. In the mouth, flavors of chocolate, caramel, and herbs mix together with beautiful seamlessness. Notes of dark honey and coffee emerge on the long finish. Excellent acidity and moderate sweetness make this a fantastic dessert wine. A traditional blend of 80% Assyrtiko, 10% Aidani and 10% Athiri. 14% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5.

1980 Argyros Vinsanto
Medium greenish brown in the glass, this wine smells of chocolate and wet wood and Chinese herbs. In the mouth, flavors of caramel, café mocha and cream sherry mix with darker, earthier honey flavors, all electrified with excellent acidity. Wonderfully textured and incredibly complex, the wine leaves citrus notes and vanilla lingering in a finish that is best described as epic. After 30 years this wine is still fantastic, and probably will be for another 10 or 20. A traditional blend of 80% Assyrtiko, 10% Aidani and 10% Athiri. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9.5.



sigalas.jpg

DOMAINE SIGALAS

Founded in 1991 by by Paris Sigalas, Christos Markozane and Yiannis Toundas. Paris Sigalas, who was born on Santorini, was trained as a mathematician, and returned to the island to teach. But after stepping in to help his father with a harvest one day, his interest in winemaking was sparked, and gradually grew to the point that it could not be ignored. Initially making wine in his family's garage, the winery built a production facility in 1998. Sigalas owns about 7 hectares of vineyards (a large holding by Santorini standards) which he farms organically, having been one of the pioneers of organic viticulture on the island.

US IMPORTER: Diamond Importers, Chicago, IL. www.diamondwineimporters.com


2010 Sigalas Assyrtiko-Athiri White Blend
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of wet stones and lemon zest with hints of white peaches. In the mouth, the wine is fresh and bright with flavors of pear and hints of spices and citrus. Nicely balanced and wonderfully balanced. 2010 was an unusual year with a heat spike in July that drove a very early harvest of very ripe grapes. A blend of 75% Assyrtiko, 25% Athiri. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $17. Click to buy.

2010 Sigalas "Santorini" Assyrtiko
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon zest, cucumber, and sea air. In the mouth, it is nothing if not zingy and zippy, offering flavors of wet rocks, lemon juice, and seawater that all linger with a long airy, lemony finish. Fermented and aged in stainless steel. Beautiful. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $24. Click to buy.

2009 Sigalas "Kavalieros Single Vineyard" Assyrtiko
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of liquefied rocks, and a diaphanous cloud of lemon oil. In the mouth the wine has an almost searing minerality with flavors of citrus, unripe peach and exotic oils. Very nice balance and a wonderful finish. Made from a traditional, ancient vineyard, one of the first that Mr. Sigalas first began working with. Fermented in tanks and aged on its lees with regular battonage for 18 months. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $40

2008 Sigalas "Santorini" Assyrtiko
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine smells of white flowers and wet chalkboard perfumed with lemon. In the mouth, bright lemon zest, pink grapefruit, and wet stones work in perfect balance and linger through a long finish that has notes of sea air. Elegant, complex, and very refreshing. Everything you want in a white wine. 14% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5.

2007 Sigalas "Santorini" Assyrtiko
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of sea air, cucumber, and hints of candied lemon peel. In the mouth the wine has a wonderful suppleness, with flavors of lemon juice, cucumber, and kelp. Excellent acidity and a long lemony finish. Lovely. Score: around 9.

2005 Sigalas "Santorini" Assyrtiko
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of white flowers and lemon zest. In the mouth the wine develops an almost Riesling-like petrol and paraffin note along with lemon zest and wet stones. The finish has a wonderful wet chalkboard quality to it, along with that constant note of salinity found in so many wines from Santorini. Gorgeously balanced and quite gulpable. 14% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5.

2009 Sigalas "Santorini Barrel" Assyrtiko
Pale greenish gold in the glass, this wine has a nose of candied lemon and vanilla, with notes of white flowers. In the mouth, the wine has a very sexy texture and flavors of bright candied lemon, sweet white flowers, and deep minerality. The oak is very well integrated. Fermented and aged in French oak barrels of which 30% were new. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $30

2009 Sigalas Mavrotragano
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cassis, raisins, leather, and exotic wood smoke. In the mouth the wine offers flavors of raisins, leather, cassis and hints of darker earthier notes. Leathery tannins wrap around the edges of the mouth, and hints of licorice linger in the finish. A bit ripe for my tastes. 15% alcohol. Score: around 8. Cost: $50

2008 Sigalas Mavrotragano
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine has a wonderful nose of cassis and mixed black fruit jam aromas mixed with exotic green herbs. In the mouth the wine has a dark cassis and mulberry character with hints of oak. Leathery tannins grab the tongue firmly as notes of candied violets and licorice linger on the finish. 15% alcohol. Score: around 8. Cost: $50

2004 Sigalas "Apiliotis" Mandilaria
Dark ruby in color with a hint of orange at the edge, this wine smells of raisins and chocolate. In the mouth the wine has a remarkable level of acidity. Flavors of raisins, black cherry, chocolate, and blackberry swirl with a deep complexity and linger in a long finish with faint tannins. Only moderately sweet, this dessert wine simply makes the mouth water. Made from grapes that are aged for about seven to ten days on straw mats in the sun before vinification, which sometimes takes months or even a year. The wine is then aged in old oak barrels for more than 7 years before release. 9% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5.

2004 Sigalas Vinsanto
Dark amber brown in the glass, this wine smells of candied roasted nuts and caramelized bananas. In the mouth, the wine offers toffee, caramel, and a coffee-with-milk creaminess borne on a silky textured wave of bright sunlight. Fantastic acidity means that despite moderate to high sweetness, this wine is not cloying, and finishes long and beautifully. 75% Assyrtiko, 25% Aidani, aged in ancient oak casks for a minimum of 7 years. One of the best young Vinsantos made in Santorini. 9% alcohol. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $35. Click to buy.




kotso.jpg

Koutsoyiannipoulos Winery

Koutsoyiannopoulos was the only winemaker we did not get a chance to meet face-to-face while we were on the island, as he was ill during our visit. We got a chance to visit the exterior of his winery, which is fairly tourist-oriented, with its on-site wine museum, and odd paper mache dioramas of film crews in his vineyards. We did get a chance to taste the wines, however.

US IMPORTER: Athena Imports, Atlanta, GA 718-882-3433


2010 Koutsoyiannopoulos Winery "Santorini" Assyrtiko
Light greenish-gold in the glass, this wine smells of citrus zest and wet stones. In the mouth the wine is quite mineral, with tart grassy and slightly waxy character but lacks some complexity. 14% alcohol. Score: between 8 and 8.5. Cost: $20

2010 Koutsoyiannopoulos Winery "Fisalis" Regional Blend Rosé
Pale ruby-orange in the glass, this wine smells of hibiscus and watermelon. In the mouth it offers tart sour cherry and watermelon flavors with a hint of waxiness. Nice citrus and berry notes on the finish, but somewhat blocky in character -- not quite as round and supple as it could be. A blend of white Assyrtiko and red Mandilaria. 13% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $14

2009 Koutsoyiannopoulos Winery "Ambelones" Red Blend
Light to medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of exotic spices and oak. In the mouth the wine offers exotic woods, balsamic vinegar, tart cherry and strawberry flavors. Holding the oak quite well, though it is clearly evident, this wine has a wonderful acidity. A blend of Mavrotragano, Mandilaria, Mavrothiri, though in what proportions I am not sure. 13% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $16

2008 Koutsoyiannopoulos Winery Vinsanto
Light amber brown in color, this wine smells of raisins, figs, and toffee. In the mouth the wine is moderate to very sweet, with coffee and milk and candied nuts flavors. Nice acidity keeps the wine from being syrupy, but the flavors are more simple than other Vinsantos on the island. 11% alcohol. Score: between 8 and 8.5. Cost: $28




hadzidakis.jpg

HADZIDAKIS WINERY

Perhaps one of the most interesting and exceptional wineries on Santorini, Hadzidakis winery recently came close to shutting down. Thankfully, the owner Haridimos Hadzidakis managed to keep it afloat. Hadzidakis came to the island in 1991, and like many winemakers on the island, was employed for a time at Boutari. His wife's family owned vineyards, which had been neglected since 1956. Hadzidakis eventually decided to start his own winery with his wife's vineyard holdings (a valuable commodity on the island). Remarkably, Hadzidakis decided that his operation would be fully organic from day one, at least for those vineyards that he controls. He is also notably the only winemaker on the island to use native yeast fermentations for all his wines, also eschewing fining and filtering.

The Hadzidakis winery is basically an old shed, with a moldy underground stone cellar. A couple of steel tanks and a few ancient oak fermentation tanks sit just outside the dank stone room that serves as tasting room and foyer to the cramped, dark barrel room. Hadzidakis himself is an enigmatic character with a mischievous glint in his eye and a series of mild tics, including an incessant shifting back and forth from one foot to the other and rubbing his hands on his legs, that suggest something like Aspergers Syndrome. A sweetheart of a guy, he comes across as a bit like a winemaking savant, and his overall demeanor, the primitive nature of his operations, and his tendency to answer questions in as brief a form as possible made it hard not to immediately induct him into my "Wacko Winemakers" hall of fame, a distinction reserved for only my most favorite winemakers in the world.

His wines were, across the board, the most soulful and distinctive of any that I tasted on Santorini, and his low-intervention approach to his winemaking sets him apart from most other winemakers on the island.

US IMPORTER: Trireme Imports, Huntersville, NC. www.triremeimports.com

2010 Hadzidakis Assyrtiko-Aidani White Blend
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of honey and white flowers. In the mouth it offers a beautifully silky, weighty texture with flavors of honey, white peaches, wet stones, and white flowers. Long delicate finish. Very nicely balanced. A blend of 80% Aidani, 20% Assyrtiko. 13% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $17

2010 Hadzidakis "Santorini" Assyrtiko
Pale gold in the glass, this wine smells of liquid stone and white flowers, and tart unripe peaches and apples. In the mouth the wine has a wonderful lacy delicacy, with flavors of rainwater and wet stone welded to unripe peaches and notes of citrus. Excellent acidity and excellent balance. Score: around 9. Cost: $26

2010 Hadzidakis "Cuvee 15 Organic" Assyrtiko
Light yellow in the glass, this wine smells of rainwater and unripe pear, citrus, and white flowers. In the mouth the wine is delicate and balanced, with wonderful acidity, and flavors of white and yellow flowers and sarsaparilla. Its beautiful texture also reveals notes of unripe apples, honey, and gives way to a long tart mineral finish. Stunning. 15% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $30

2009 Hadzidakis Nykteri Assyrtiko
Medium gold in the glass, this wine smells of vanilla and hints of sweet oak mixed with lemon curd. Wonderfully balanced and delicate, in the mouth the wine offers flavors of wet stones, sweet oak and lemon cream, with a long vanilla and lemon pear finish. Aged in 100% French oak, but none of it is new. A beautiful wine. 15% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $28

2008 Hadzidakis Nykteri Assyrtiko
Medium yellow-gold in the glass, this wine smells of yellow flowers, white peaches, bee pollen, and rainwater. In the mouth, the wine has a wonderful dried lemon rind and waxy flavor, with beautiful undercurrents of mineral and rainwater that linger in the finish. Clear and pure, with crystalline quality, truly exceptional. 15% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $30

2009 Hadzidakis "Santorini Barrel" Assyrtiko
Medium yellow gold in the glass, this wine smells of lemon curd and sweet oak with hints of white peaches and honey. In the mouth the wine is quite pure and crystalline, with lemon curd, vanilla, and deep mineral undertones. The oak is beautifully integrated here, but somehow a bit too much. This wine (both to its credit and its detriment) tastes like white Burgundy. 14% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $30

2009 Hadzidakis "Santorini Milos Single Vineyard" Assyrtiko
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells of chamomile and rainwater, apples and citrus. In the mouth, flavors of bergamot and quartz, rainwater and jasmine mix in a delicate, beautifully perfumed wine. Utterly fantastic acidity. A long finish with a sort of waxy quality lingers. Tank fermented and aged 8 months on the lees. Fantastic, and one of the best renditions of this grape on the island. 15% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $35

2008 Hadzidakis Mavrotragano
Inky, opaque garnet in the glass, this wine smells of raisins, redwood bark, and leather. In the mouth, earthy-woody-leathery flavors of raisins, dried figs, and earth mix together pungently. Hints of caraway seed emerge on the finish, with peanut-butter-thick tannins. A bit dried for my palate. 14% alcohol. Score: between 8 and 8.5. Cost: $38

2003 Hadzidakis Vinsanto
Dark amber in the glass, this wine smells of raisins, caramel and coffee. In the mouth, beautifully bright acidity makes the mouth water, as moderate to very sweet flavors of caramel, toffee, coffee-with-milk, and dark honey and baked apples course across the palate. Weighty and silky and gorgeous. Long finish. 11% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $44

Comments (11)

Tim McDonald wrote:
07.11.11 at 10:37 AM

WOW! The most thoughtful and educational read I have seen in a long while! We could all try and taste outside our comfort zone and include these historic and tasty wines! Good on you for the info!

Michael Pavlidis wrote:
07.11.11 at 1:02 PM

This is the best article I have seen in years about Santorini wines.Congratulations for the great work you have done!!

Laura wrote:
07.11.11 at 1:24 PM

This is wonderful information for wine newbs! I'm headed to Santorini next month and find this article incredibly helpful. I'll be content to sit and drink wine for a week. Thanks!

Chad wrote:
07.13.11 at 2:04 PM

I was there last year and had some nice wines at a place called "Art + Space", which had an interesting history too. The place was founded (or re-founded) by the son of the man who started Santowines. http://artspace-santorini.com/en/winery_area.html I particularly enjoyed the Vinsanto. I thought they made their own wines, but it's not on your list.

Dan wrote:
07.24.11 at 1:45 PM

We just returned from Santorini. When we arrived and had our first lunch, we asked for a bottle of a good local wine from the waiter. He began to tell us about Santorini wines including much of the history in your first article. I wish I had seen your article before our vacation. We fell in love with the whites and Rose's and had many a good bottle of wine during our stay. Santorini wines are now on our list of favorites. Now I have to search local stores to see who carries them locally.

Maria wrote:
05.10.12 at 2:09 PM

I so appreciated this thoughtful and comprehensive review of Santorini's wines. As a Hellene, it is sometimes hard for me to convince others that Greece has wonderful wines. This review should change lots of minds. All they need do, is open one of the many that you suggested! Thanks again.

04.23.14 at 6:31 PM

Localiser le superbe e cigarette en solde

04.23.14 at 9:20 PM

Many thanks. I value it!

???? wrote:
04.24.14 at 1:11 AM

Great material, With thanks.

???? ?? ?? wrote:
04.24.14 at 1:20 AM

Amazing forum posts, Appreciate it!

04.24.14 at 3:48 AM

I just could not go away your site before suggesting that I actually enjoyed the usual
info an individual provide to your visitors?

Is going to be back regularly in order to inspect new
posts

Comment on this entry

(will not be published)
(optional -- Google will not follow)
Yes
 

Type the characters you see in the picture above.

Pre-Order My Book!

small_final_covershot_dropshadow.jpg A wine book like no other. Photographs, essays, and wine recommendations. Learn more.

Follow Me On:

Twitter Facebook Pinterest Instagram Delectable Flipboard

Most Recent Entries

Vinography Unboxed: Week of April 20th, 2014 An American Perspective on (the Wine Scene in) Japan Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe, Chateauneuf-du-Pape: Current Releases Vinography Images: Rising Light Book Review: The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert The Beauty of 2011 Burgundy: Highlights from La Paulee de San Francisco Seven Percent Solution Tasting: May 8, San Francisco Vinography Images: Autumn Cellar Vinography Images: Vines and Sky Are You a Red, Pink or a Purple Wine Stater?

Favorite Posts From the Archives

Masuizumi Junmai Daiginjo, Toyama Prefecture Wine.Com Gives Retailers (and Consumers) the Finger 1961 Hospices de Beaune Emile Chandesais, Burgundy Wine Over Time The Better Half of My Palate 1999 Királyudvar "Lapis" Tokaji Furmint, Hungary What's Allowed in Your Wine and Winemaking Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Appreciating Wine in Context The Soul vs. The Market 1989 Fiorano Botte 48 Semillion,Italy

Archives by Month

 

Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.