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.
Santorini 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)