Discovering the best wines of Santorini!
Greek wines are, very much like Greek food, known for their strong intensity. A small but not insignificant part of Greek wines comes from the Aegean islands, the most famous of them being Santorini. I will show you where to find the best wines of Santorini – and which wineries offer the best Santorini wine tastings on the island!
Table of contents
What you need to know about Santorini wines
Santorini is the home of the famous Greek wine Assyrtiko. The Assyrtiko is known to be bone-dry and lean with subtle saltiness. Another famous Santorini wine is the Vinsanto, a sun-dried sweet wine. These are among others known as the best wines of Santorini.
While it looks almost red the Vinsanto is made from white grapes, the Assyrtiko, the Athiri, and the Aidani. The wine has a very strong acidity and is therefore known for a haunting balance of bitter and sweet.
Santorini wines have a very special history, they have been produced there since the Middle Ages and became famous under the influence of the Republic of Venice. The island of Santorini used to be the core of an ancient volcano, which erupted in the years of 1640 – 1620 BC and formed the island as we know it now.
Santorini is famous for its Mediterranean climate, with warm temperatures and little rainfall. The soil of the vineyards is very special and consists, because of the history of the island, mainly of volcanic ash and rocks.
Due to the heavy winds on the island, Santorini wines are not cultivated like other wines around the world in a row but rather on the ground, forming round baskets. The plants can draw their water from the ground up and can therefore survive in the long dry periods of the island.
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A wine tasting experience at Canava Roussos winery
On our first trip, we had the pleasure of visiting the oldest winery on the island, called Canava Roussos. It was founded in 1836 and produces high-quality wines of a big variety: Assyrtiko, Athiri, Aidani, Mandilaria, and Mavrathiro.
The tasting is taking place in a beautiful garden area and accompanied by small snacks. We were able to tour a small museum and have a look around the winery itself. Our favorite was the so-called “Love Wine”, of the sort Mavrathiro. Cute souvenir idea: we bought a travel-sized bottle of the Love Wine from our birth year, 1994. For me personally, these were the best wines of Santorini. This trip was definitely a great wine tasting experience!
Pro Tip: combine the wine tasting with a walking tour hosted by a local through a traditional Santorini village and see the stunning island from a different perspective.
A guided wine tasting tour of three Santorini wineries
On our second trip to the island, we opted for a bigger wine tasting experience: visiting a vineyard, followed by three wineries where we tasted around 15 different wines. We started our tour in a small group of 8 people and visited one of the bigger vineyards on the island, where we inspected the plant and the soil.
We learned that most of the agriculture on the island is indeed consisting of vineyards. To our surprise, there are countless small vineyards belonging to different owners. The bigger wineries do not only own their ground but also buy the crops from other smaller fields. We can totally recommend this wine tasting tour as one of the best wine tasting tours in Santorini.
We started the tasting off in the winery Anhydrous. There we tried delicious tapas in a modern and airy outdoor seating area alongside the wines. Firstly, we learned about the history of the winery in a small tour.
Anhydrous winery’s history dates back to the year of 2000 when the winemaker Apostolos Moudrichas the famous Santorini grape Assyrtiko for himself discovered. He returned to the island in the year 2012, with a philosophy of making wines with high purity of the fruit, strict structure, varietal characteristics, and balance. His goal was to create high-quality wines that reflect the raw beauty of Santorini.
The winery itself is not located around the tasting area, called Anhydrous Cellar Door, and is purely a production area. The tasting area is located close by Fira and operates from May to October.
We tried five different wines. The Santorini, which is a blend of Assyrtiko, Athiri, and Aidani, was my favorite. It has an aroma of lemon blossoms, and chamomile and has a salty aftertaste that reminds me of the ocean.
Amongst others, we tried the red wine Saint Nickolas, which is a blend of the Mavrotragano and the Mandilaria grape. This wine has an aroma of blackberries, vanilla, and sweet spices.
The tapas consisted of regional fish, seasonal fruit, and vegetables as well as cheeses and spreads. Our tour guide gave us a generous amount of time to get to know the other participants, enjoy the food and the wine and learn about the winery in between the tastings.
I loved the airy and chic vibe of the tasting area. The wines were outstanding and the food was delightful. The only downside of the tasting at Anhydrous wines is, that you cannot visit the production. However, they did bring some exemplary wine barrels and equipment to the tasting area for the showcase.
The second winery we visited was the Hatzidakis winery, close by the village of Pyrgos. Hatzidakis winery was founded in 1997. It was previously an abandoned vineyard, that had not been cultivated since 1956.
Hatzidakis winery was the first vineyard in Santorini that organically cultivated. Until this day, it is the only organic certified vineyard on the island. Their philosophy is mainly concerning the vineyard itself, and up-keeping an outstanding quality of the raw materials.
“A fine wine is made in the Winery, an excellent wine in the Vineyard”
Over the years, the owner has expanded the winery, and is now, after the death of Haridimos Hatzidakis run by his family.
The tasting was in the wine cellar in a very authentic setting next to the oak barrels. It was slightly chilly during the tasting, so I recommend bringing a sweater.
We tried their famous Aidani wine (it has a very special label, of a child’s drawing) as well as the Rosette and others. The Aidani is made from 100 % Aidani grapes that grow in the villages Pyrgos, Megalohori, and Akrotiri. It has a gold-yellow color and reminds of nuts, pear and citrus fruit.
The Rosette is made from 100 % Mandaloria grapes and has a bright magenta color. The taste hints of red fruits and has a buttery aroma with a salty aftertaste. We ate delicious local cheese and bread with the tasting.
We had the chance to explore the actual factory part of the cellar and learn about their wine making process.
Santo Wines Winery & Tourism Center
Our last and probably most spectacular tasting was at the Santo Wines Tourism Center in the village of Pyrgos. From the terraces of the winery, with a stunning view of the sunset over the Caldera, we indulged in a plate of local delicacies. After having tasted 10 glasses of wine before (we did not spit it out), this was a welcome surprise.
The new Santo Wines Winery was completed in 1992 and is probably the most state-of-the-art winery in Greece. At the same time, they constructed the Santo Wines Tourism Center, which is located right at the edge of the Caldera with an amazing view over the volcano. The terrace of the Tourism center is where the tastings are taking place.
We enjoyed the Santo Sparkling Rose, the Santorini Assyrtiko, as well as the Santorini Nykteri. Lastly, we ended the day on a sweet note, with the dessert wine Santorini Vinsanto.
The Vinsanto is a naturally sweet white dessert wine, made from sun-dried grapes. It has an amber color, so it tastes very sweet, with hints of dried apricots, cinnamon and raisins. This was by far my favorite wine of the evening.
We ended the tour in the impressive shop at Santo Wines Tourism Center, where we bought a couple of bottles as well as an Aronia-jam as a souvenir. All in all we would probably rate this as the best wine tasting in Santorini.
Conclusion – best wines of Santorini
We have vastly enjoyed the great experience of all four wineries on the island. They could have not been more different from each other, but every one of them had a unique charm in their own way.
In our opinion, Santorini is a true wine-lovers paradise. Mostly, because the strong and distinct taste of the white wines is as pleasant as it is surprising. However, for people with a sweet tooth like me, the sun-dried dessert wines of the island leave no craving unfulfilled.
For everyone who is equally enthusiastic about the Santorini wines but arrived via plane, we have good news: most wineries ship orders all across the world. Don’t pass up on your chance to try the best wines of Santorini. For booking of the wine tasting tour click here.
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