The Wineries of Santorini
The economic and social life of Santorini has been closely connected with its vineyards for thousands of years. Archaeological excavations indicate that vineyards existed on the island since the 17th century BC, and after the major eruption of 1620 BC they continued to thrive again from 1200 BC to the present day. An unusual characteristic of Santorini vines is that they are self-rooted (unlike most grapevines in the world), and this is necessary to protect them from the epidemic of phylloxera (vine louse) in the volcanic soil of the island. A distinctive pruning style is used in Santorini, including techniques such as “Gyristi” (meaning “spiral”) and “Koulouri” (usually used for a bread ring) to protect them from strong winds. The resulting wine is of high quality, with standard cultivars including the Assyrtiko (80% of total production), Athiri, Aidani (white varieties) and the Mandilaria, Mavrotragano and Voudomato (red varieties). Some of the most famous wines are the sweet Vinsanto, the Assyrtiko, and the Nychteri.
Clearly, the island has a significant number of wineries. Over the years, they have turned into a center of attraction for tourists from all over the world. Visitors have the opportunity to learn about the winemaking tradition of each winery, walk in the vineyards, taste local varieties and traditional delicacies, and learn everything about the world of wine from professional winemakers. Let us get to know them briefly:
The Boutari winery in Megalochori is one of the prize-winning estates of the Boutari company. It opened its doors for the first time in 1989, and since then it has played a leading role in the development of viticulture on the island and in the commercial development and promotion of the wines of Santorini worldwide.
The Gavalas family has been dedicated to winemaking in Santorini since the late 19th century. The modern Gavalas winery, where bottling began in 1998, is also located in Megalochori.
Remaining in Megalochori, we can continue with the Arvanitis winery. Here visitors can drink the old Nychteri, a wine made from overripe grapes that are fermented in old French or Russian barrels. At the family winery of Mr. Antonis, you will find the barrels lined up next to each other, with taps for serving and wine names written in chalk.
The Venetsanos winery is situated in a prime location above Athinios, offering panoramic views of the Santorini caldera. Built in 1947 by the Venetsanos family, it became the first industrial winery on the island. It was constructed with an innovative design so it could function from the top down in order to utilize gravity as the driving force, without needing another source of energy (such as electricity).
In 1999, Antonis N. Argyros put his family’s old winery back into business by founding the Art Space in Exo Gonia. The premises of the old winery were restored and transformed into a museum and gallery, while the winery resumed production in a nearby cave. Although it is small, with great enthusiasm and high technology, the Art Space Winery aims at high quality rather than quantity.
We continue with the 200 year old Argyros family winery, which is located in the basement of a renovated mansion in the center of Messaria. There you can try award-winning Avantis wines during the visiting days and hours.
In Pyrgos on the premises of an old kanava, or wine cellar, that dates back to 1895, Yannis Drossos - Chryssos presents a rich exhibition of material from the island's past. In addition to the production method of wine and the processing of tomatoes, you will learn about Santorini’s fava and about all the occupations and activities of the past residents of the island.
In the settlement of Pyrgos, we can also visit the Hatzidakis winery, which was founded in 1997 by Haridimos and Konstantina Hatzidakis. The small cave winery currently cultivates 100 acres, using organic farming methods for most of them.
Founded in 1947, the Union of Santorini Cooperatives, Santo, is one of the most dynamic cooperatives in Greece, with 1200 members. Monovarietal organic wines, SantoWines, are produced at the winery, which always aims for the preservation of local tradition and history, the protection of traditional crops, and the production of high quality wine and traditional local products from the Santorini Protected Designation of Origin (PDO).
Founded in 1836 and aiming to produce high quality wines, the Roussos Kanava or winery in Episkopi-Gonia is the oldest in Santorini. Today, it utilizes modern technology to create wines with unique flavors and aromas, choosing excellent raw materials from some of the finest varieties on the island.
The Koutsoyannopoulos Winery and Museum is the only wine museum in an underground cave in Greece. Located in Vothonas, it is 8 meters below ground and 300 meters long, in a labyrinth shape. After touring the museum, visitors can go to a specially designed tasting area to try four of the best wines that the winery produces today.
In business since 2015, the Vassaltis winery is the newest on the island. Its name comes from the rock formed from the cooling of basaltic lava (basalt, or vasaltis in Greek). Its modern white building on the coastal road near Vourvoulos is waiting to welcome wine lovers in a beautiful atmosphere!
The Gaia winery is located on the eastern side of the island, very close to the airport and on the beachfront. Housed in a superb stone building built early last century, the winery is equipped with the most modern winemaking systems, ensuring ideal conditions for producing high quality wine from Assyrtiko grapes.
The Domaine Sigalas winery is located on the ancient plain of Oia. The company was founded in 1991. At first the winery was housed where the traditional kanava (winery) of the family of Paris Sigalas used to be. Then, in 1998, a new production, bottling, and aging facility was constructed and opened in a private area. After continuous investments in modernization and expansion, the current production infrastructure was completed; it is capable of processing and bottling 300,000 bottles annually.
Finally, we visit the ultramodern winery of the Karamolegos family in the area of Exo Gonia, where the indigenous grape varieties of the island--Assyrtiko, Aidani, Athiri and Mavrotragano--are made into wine with great care. The product range includes 9 wines; the Nychteri PDO, Vinsanto PDO, and Mavrotragano are the most popular.