Assyrtiko from Greece

Santorini  is an ancient, very picturesque Greek island, with remarkable blue waters & breathtaking, panoramic views.

This is also the home of one of Greece’s finest white wines, which is produced from the indigenous Assyrtiko grape variety.

The vines are planted in volcanic soils, which have very little clay, resulting in wines of a distinct minerality.  Furthermore, these soils, interestingly, are inhospitable to the phylloxera louse, which is why there is still a remarkable amount of VERY old vines scattered throughout the wild countryside. 

There are only a few producers still making wines, but thankfully many still follow the traditional “koulara” style of training the vines, the only place in the world that I know of which does so.  san4san3OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 These “vine baskets” (kourloura) are purposely grown into this shape, hand woven as they grow, to survive the extreme growing conditions–surreal heat, strong, pounding winds & general lack of water.  Because there is no phylloxera, these OLD vines’ roots burrow deep in the volcanic/pumice soils in search of water & therefore pick up all kinds of trace elements, which just add to the resulting wines’ minerality.

Of the 3 main white grape varieties ( Assyrtiko, Athiri & Aidani), Assyrtiko is the standout with innate racy acidity & assertive & pronounced minerality. 

Of the Island’s 10 or so remaining wineries, the Domaine Sigalas Assyrtiko is, by reputation, the star.  santo1

Domaine Sigalas was founded in 1991,  Their vineyards are considered the oldest continuously cultivated vineyards in the world (over 3000 years)“.

This wine is 100% Assyrtiko, grown volcanic, black lava & pumice soils which have some sand, very little clay & is VERY poor in any organic matter.  The fermentation is done in stainless steel at cool temperatures.

 Here is what I wrote after a recent tasting of the 2012. 

Took a while to open up aromatically. I had to keep coming back to try this wine over & over again to better understand it. It, however, was worth it as I find this to be a fascinating white wine. On the palate, it displayed a assertive-ness, bordering coarse-ness/rugged-ness, which reminded me of an Italian Nebbiolo vinified white, I had with the 1991 vintage–stony, masculine, red wine-ish character (viscosity & innate bitterness). When I came back to it after a bout with the red wine line-up, I enjoyed it more, as the bitterness was NOT as evident (after having the red wines). One would need to be quite specific in pairing foods with this fascinating wine, I believe.”

To that, I would add……..the more I have it, the more & more I like it.  It REALLY is tasty & unique.

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