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