Category Archives: Greek Wine

Jul 07 2016

Rave Reviews for Santorini’s Assyrtiko

Posted on July 07, 2016 | By

“Among the World’s Great Whites”

Not sure about you, but a few years ago I’d never heard of Assyrtiko, the native white grape of Santorini? So I was intrigued to read that the Wine Advocate’s Mark Squires, no less, claims that as a category Assyrtikos are “among the world’s great whites.” He goes on to say that Assyrtiko is “simply brilliant, a high-upside white grape that works well in every incarnation: unoaked, oaked, Nykteri, monovarietals, blends (with Aidani and Athiri) and sweet (Vinsanto) versions.” (Greece: The Santorini Special by Mark Squires,, 30 October 2015)

And the reviews are just as good for Assyrtiko’s ageing prospects. According to Squire, “they have the structure to age far better than people think…I find it hard to believe, say, that a top level Assyrtiko from a good producer in a good year shouldn’t go (at least) a decade.”

Fortunately I’ve enjoyed some terrific Assyrtikos over the last couple of years. Top notch importers like David Lamb of Douglas Lamb Wines have helped to introduce Australians to Santorini’s best producers, and you’ll now find Assyrtiko on the wine lists of many of country’s top restaurants.

For a grape that hails from one of the hottest and driest wine regions in the world, Assyrtiko has a surprising level of acidity (hence, it’s impressive ageing potential) and a minerality that often invites comparisons with Chablis.

Gai'a ThalassitisOne of the best examples of dry assyrtiko, the Gai’a 2015 Thalassitis, is currently listed on the Cellarit Wine Market. Here’s Squires’ 92 point review:

The 2015 Thalassitis is Gai’a’s familiar, old-vines Assyrtiko, unoaked and without malolactic fermentation (as the winery points out, “due to the climate conditions of Santorini the wine contains no malic acid, thus no malolactic fermentation is required”). It comes in at just 12.9% alcohol. Read the rest

Jun 06 2015

The Wonderful Diversity of Greek Grape Varieties

Posted on June 06, 2015 | By

You may be surprised to learn that Greece has an estimated 300 indigenous grape varieties!

Of course, winemaker and consumer attention is focused on what are commonly referred to as the big four: Xinomavro, Agiorgitiko, Moschofilero and Assyrtiko, but other interesting grapes like Malagousia have also attracted a following. Crete has its own indigenous varieties: Vidiano and Liatiko.

Here’s a little bit of information about each of these varieties.

Xinomavro (ksee NO ma vro) – This red grape variety from northern Greece has been called a cult wine in the making. It is widely considered Greece’s finest red wine and often invites comparisons with the famous Barolo wines of Italy’s Piedmont region. Much like Nebbiolo, Xinomavro tends to be tannic in youth, but becomes more elegant with ageing. The best examples of Xinomavro have extraordinary depth and complexity. Typical aromas include black olive, spices, earth, and dark fruit.

Naoussa, a green and lush region that sits at the base of a mountain range, is the most important appellation associated with the variety, but Nemea, on the Peloponnese peninsula, also makes impressive Xinomavro.

Agiorgitiko (ah yor YEE ti ko) – Native to Greece’s Peloponnese peninsula and one of its oldest varieties, this fragrant, versatile grape makes suave, full-bodied, fruit forward reds with supple red plum and berry flavours and plush tannins. Agiorgitiko means “St George’s Grape”, and is probably named for a chapel near Nemea. It’s also associated with the Ancient Greek half-god Heracles.

The higher-altitude vineyards of Nemea, where some of the semi-mountainous vineyards are between 450 and 650 metres above sea level, insure a long growing season, allowing the fruit to ripen slowly and retain enough acidity to create balanced, well structured wines.

Moschofilero (mos ko FEE le Ro) – A very aromatic white grape variety form the … Read the rest

Apr 04 2015

The Dynamic Wineries of Santorini

Posted on April 04, 2015 | By

Ironically the dire state of Greek economy has actually helped spur a renaissance in Greek’s most prestigious wine region – the picturesque Cycladic island of Santorini, about 250 km southeast of Athens.

Markos Kafouros, president of Santo Wines, a wine cooperative of about 1,000 active small growers, told the Wine Spectator’s Kim Marcus that “Because of the economic crisis, a lot of young people are cultivating grapes.” (Greek Revival: A modernizing wine industry lights the way in this ancient land by Kim Marcus, Wine Spectator, 15 November 2014)

Further encouraged by the growing demand for Greek wines in the capital of Athens and beyond, Santorini is now producing a high number of consistently well-made wines.

As well as the cooperative, Santorini is home to a dozen small independent wineries. Around 14 per cent (approximately 3,200 acres) of the island is under vine. The focus is definitely on realising the potential of Santorini’s indigenous grape varieties, which in addition to the flagship white variety assyrtico, include aidini and athiri and the red grape variety of mavrotragano. In recent years, some of the larger producers have started exporting up two-thirds of their production.


HatzidakisSantorini winemakers credit winemaker Yiannis Boutaris, originally of Boutari, with the birth of modern winemaking on the island.

According to the Wine Spectator’s Robert Camuto, in the late 1980s Boutaris introduced earlier harvests, pneumatic presses and longer, cooler fermentations. These techniques allowed winemakers to move away from high alcohol, sweet styles to the dry, fresh and minerally-laced assyrtico whites that have captured the attention of the world’s top critics. (Discovering Santorini by Robert Camuto, Wine Spectator, 15 November 2014)

Today, other top wineries like Estate Argyros, Hatzidakis Wines and Domaine Sigalas are continuing to innovate in order to bring out the best in Santorini’s … Read the rest

Apr 04 2015

Santorini’s Assyrtico: A wine that invites Chablis comparisons!

Posted on April 04, 2015 | By

I’ve noticed that dry assyrtico, an aromatic white wine made from the indigenous grape of Santorini, often comes up in discussions about minerality in wine. This relatively unfamiliar Greek wine is mentioned alongside the legendary chardonnays of Chablis and the renowned rieslings of Mosel as a wonderful example of a wine that truly reflects the character of its unique terroir.

In fact The New York Times wine critic Eric Asimov noted that during a blind tasting reviewers frequently compared Santorini assyrtico with Chablis:

These wines in particular show pure briny, mineral flavors, as if they were the concentrated essence of millions of tiny seashells. Not once but several times during the blind tasting a comparison was made to Chablis, which cuts a similarly saline profile. (As Greek as the Sea by Eric Asimov, The New York Times 23 May 2013)

Assyrtico is Greece’s most iconic grape variety

Assyrtico is Greece’s most iconic grape variety. It thrives in the nutrient depleted, wind-swept volcanic soils of Santorini, an island southeast of mainland Greece in the Agean Sea.

santorini-assyrtiko-grapesSantorini is an unusual place to grow grapes. It’s actually dry enough to be classified as a desert and very windy. Over the centuries vineyard proprietors have developed novel methods to cope with the problematic conditions. The vines, for example, are trained to weave themselves into ground-hugging, basket-like shapes which act as a protective balls around the fruit. Interestingly, some of the best vintages occur in years when the weather is particularly windy. The wind brings much needed moisture from the sea to the grapes.

Greece is host to some of the oldest vines in Europe

Santorini vineyardSome assyrtico vines are up to 70 years of age and are grown on original root stocks that are more than 300 years old. Santorini’s sulphur-rich, porous soils … Read the rest