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Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Santorinian case of winemaking and 3 world-class local wineries

Santorini is famous for dozens of reasons, but mostly about its amazing views over the volcano & the Caldera, its breathtaking sunsets and its uniquely romantic spots all over the island, turning it into a global nest for couples and lovers. However, what is gaining great attention over the last few decades is the rapidly developing industry of winemaking from the locals, whose fame has already exceeded the Greek borders, winning prestigious awards for their world-class wines. The case of Santorini, though, is special, as the volcanic tuff of the island prevented the phylloxera from affecting the vineyards over the years. Nowadays, the Santorinian wineries are included between the most prominent wine producers worldwide, with Assyrtiko comprising the signature variety alongside with Aidani, Mandilaria, Mavrotragano and Athiri.

Ktima Argyrou

Established in 1903 and located at Episkopi Gonias Thira, this small winery was included in the top 100 list of wineries worldwide by the specialized american magazine Wine & Spirits, making it one of the three Greek labels that were awarded. The candidates were examined for their consistency in quality of their products and they received this prestigious award in a great event in San Francisco.

Ktima Argyrou still uses the traditional and unique Santorinian technique of pruning and vinification, drafting indigenous grape varieties and binding their climatises altogether, thus forming a natural basket (the “kouloures” concept) which protects the grapes from the fierce winds and heat of the island. The winery is open to visitors only after specific arrangement and instead of the very good wines, visitors get to taste the unique organic-fair trade chocolate 60% Zotter, which is composed of a mixture of 10% sweet wine Vinsanto (Vino di Santo) and Rooibos tea. The approximately 80 acres of Ktima Argyrou's vineyards produce 1600-2000 kg of grapes per acre and the vine harvest takes place between 10-25 of August.

Signature labels of Ktima Argyrou (among other):

Mavrotragano Argyrou: Intense red colour with aromas of cherries, sour cherries and blackcurrants.
Vinsanto Argyrou: Ageing for 17 years into wine barrels and 3 into bottles. Amber glowing color with delicate scents of honey and dried fruits, and continues with a touch of brandy, cocoa, butter caramel and roasted nuts.
Aidani: White-yellow colour, dry, with aromas of tropical fruits and herbs.

Ktima Sigala

The “Ktima Sigalas” company was founded in 1991 and at first it was located at the older winery grounds of Sigala family. In 1998 a new winemaking unit was built in the region of Baxes, Oia, in order to update its production, ageing and bottling methods. The Sigalas' winery produces 300 thousands bottles per year, comprising the most reliable winemaker of the island with exports reaching numerous places of the world (Germany, Belgium, France, Austria, England, USA, Hong Kong Singapore, Australia etc). Furthermore, and within the Greek borders, the luxurious complexes of Andronis Exclusive, all located in Oia, include many labels of local producers in their wine-tasting experiences, supporting the domestic high quality effort.

Signature labels of Ktima Sigala (among other):

Nyxteri 2011: Dry wine, yellow colour with golden hues, Assyrtiko with 15% alc.
Aromas of mature fruits with scents of honeycomb, honey, chamomile and tea.
Kavalieros 2012: Bright, straw blonde colour, with golden hues with intense aromas of citrus fruit (ripe lemon), accompanied by hints of herbs and citrus flowers.
Apiliotis: Deep and rich red colour, with the proper balance between sugars, tannins and acidity.

Gaia Wines
The other Santorinian winery that was awarded for its consistency to quality from the specialized american magazine Wine & Spirits last year (the third was Ktima Gerovassiliou from Epanomi Thessaloniki), Gaia Wines retains two great wineries in the two of the best vineyards of Greece, Santorini and Nemea in the Peloponnese, exporting almost half of its production to Europe, North America, Australia & Brazil.

Gaia Wines comprises the most industrial winery of the island, operating as a tomato factory before being restored. The Gaia winery is located at the east part of the island, next to the seaside and it is established in a beautiful stone-built building from the past century. Visitors can taste its great wine varieties from both of the Gaia's vineyards, while they can also enjoy a tour to the little vinegar factory of the company which produces vinegar from the Assyrtiko variety. The winery is open to visitors from May to October.

Signature labels of Gaia Wines (among other):

Thalassitis Oak Fermented: well-structured wine with mineral flavours, well-combined with nuances of wood, vanilla, incense and acacia flowers
Thalassitis: bone-dry wine with strong character: full-bodied, well-structured with crisp acidity, distinctive minerality and delicate honeysuckle aromas
Vinsanto by Gaia: the primary grape used us Assyrtiko with very small amounts of Athiri and Aidani. A portion of the grapes are sun dried in the strong Santorini summer sun while another portion is shade dried to maintain relative fruit freshness.

There are many other high-quality wineries and wine varieties in Santorini as well, with great facilities and unique wine tasting services that will capture any traveler's senses. The personal feeling and preference is always subjective, and the only objective thing that I have to declare is this: In Santorini or not, taste Santorinian wines and you will know this unique development of the local specialists. 

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