From the Greek god of wine to using wine as medicine, Greece has explored just about every angle of this complex drink. It’s not hard to see why, as this country is among the oldest winemaking cultures in the world.
Nestled in the mythical Aegean Sea, Santorini is one of the country’s best-known wine regions. Its extensive history has faced down many colossal events, such as one of the worst volcanic eruptions known to mankind and the arrival of the Romans.
Unsurprisingly, the wines of Santorini show the same hardiness and complexity as their roots.
Curious to try the wines of Santorini? We’re going to look at the history of this region, the most popular wines of Santorini, and famed wineries you should check out this year.
A Quick Look at Santorini
Santorini is an endlessly compelling deep dive into the history of ancient cultures and art forms. When Greece’s winemaking culture stretches back at least six thousand years, you’ll never be out of mysteries to explore.
Despite being a relatively isolated island off the coast of Europe, Santorini has been at the center of endless ambitions. This island experienced several years of Roman conquest, later controlled by the Ottoman Empire.
After the Greek War Of Independence, Santorini would later be occupied during World War II by multiple neighbouring countries. After so much strife, it’s inspiring to see today’s winemakers protecting their ancient winemaking methods.
Today Santorini is an incredibly popular destination for tourists who want to experience Greece’s sandy beaches, sparkling waters, and, of course, delicious wine.
What Wine Do They Drink in Greece?
You’ll find all kinds of wine types in Greece, from robust reds to bone dry whites. That said, Santorini is also home to several indigenous grapes (which we’ll explore more below).
A few common grape varieties you’ll discover on your Greek wine journey include:
What Wine is Santorini Known For?
Greece has several wines to its name, but the most popular grape variety by far is Assyrtiko. This highly adaptable white wine grape is native to Santorini, but is grown all throughout the country.
The Native Grape Varieties of Santorini, Greece
As touched on above, Santorini is home to a few indigenous wine grapes. While you’ll get your fill of famed international varieties like Pinot Noir or Shiraz, we recommend checking out the following varieties.
This white wine grape is the shining jewel of the Santorini island. Since Greece has so much volcanic activity, this grape benefits heavily from its nutrient-rich soil.
This pale grape is frequently blended to reduce its high acidity levels, though you can still find single origin bottles. Each bottle has to have at least 75% of the grape or more to be granted the label of Assyrtiko wine.
While not as well known as Assyrtiko, Aidani is still grown throughout Santorini as a delicate, floral white wine variety. Expect to see this wine mostly blended with other white wines to create extremely dry bottles.
This dark-skinned red grape has gone through an evolution over the past several decades, shifting from a popular blending grape to a popular single origin.
It’s known for skewing dry or semi-dry, with generally low tannins and soft mouthfeels. Fans of Merlot and Nebbiolo will fall in love with this variety.
Unlike Assyrtiko, Mavrotragano is only grown on Santorini.
The Unique Wine Styles of Santorini
Growing a wine grape is only part of the process. Santorini is also home to different wine styles, a term referring to winemaking methods or blends not found in other regions.
Greek winemaking methods have held fast for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Nykteri wine involves harvesting grapes at night to protect their flavor and color from the sun.
Nykteri wines are required to have a dominant percentage of Assyrtiko, with the rest of the wine usually coming from another native Greek white wine grape.
This wine classification is technically unofficial, but that doesn’t stop winemakers from producing it in large amounts. Mezzo wines are carefully sundried and frequently blended to encourage semi-sweet flavors.
Last but not least, Vinsanto is a quintessential winemaking technique of Santorini. You’ll recognize these bottles immediately by their dark amber coloration and flavor notes of sundried fruit.
Wineries of Santorini
Now that you’ve brushed up on some Greek wine terminology, it’s time to take a look at the leading wineries in the island.
Established in 1911, Santo Wines has been leading the charge for Santorini wine culture for over a century.
This prestigious winery is proud to protect old winemaking techniques, so much so it has earned the title of Protected Designation Of Origin (or PDO).
Alongside safeguarding classic Greek wine techniques, this winery also focuses on both fair trade and community involvement.
Diverse, sustainable vinification techniques are incredibly important not just for wine production, but keeping the land viable for future generations. Alongside staples like Assyrtiko and Mavrotragano, Santo Wines also produces capers and tomato sauces.
Founded by famed winemaker Paris Sigalas, Domaine Sigalas has its roots deep in the history of Greek’s impressive wine culture.
Its prime location in the heart of Santorini gives them regular access to the rich volcanic soil and high altitudes.
With its portfolio stretching back to the 1990’s, Domaine Sigalas continues to pioneer award-winning Greek wines.
Classic wine grapes like Assyrtiko and Aidani are at the forefront of this winery’s extensive portfolio, with a smattering of red blends and spirits.
Another Greek wine business you’ll hear about extensively through your journey is the legendary Estate Argyros. You know you’re in for a treat when the winery has been in production since 1903.
The second you view their portfolio you’ll be greeted with classic grapes like Assyrtiko, Aidani, and Mavrotragano, with a particular emphasis on red and white blends.
Estate Argyros holds regular wine tours for visitors, showcasing both their wine portfolio and local cheeses and meats.
The Best Wines of Santorini, Greece
The wines we’ve chosen for this list are highly representative of the Santorini region. Many native grapes will be on display here, as well as foreign grape varieties with a Greek spin.
- Assyrtiko Santorini Santo Wines 2020
- Santo Wines Crescendo
- Argyros Santorini Estate Assyrtiko 2020
- Argyros Atlantis Red 2018
- Sigalas Santorini M M 2020
- Sigalas MM Rosé 2021
- Sigalas Aidani 2020
Assyrtiko Santorini Santo Wines 2020
If you’re fond of brisk, zesty wines, Santo Wines is ready to put its best foot forward. This Assyrtiko bottle is a delightful representation of what makes this grape a household name.
This bottle is highly complex, showcasing a floral bouquet and a tangy, citrus profile. Expect a long, mineral finish and smooth mouthfeel, especially after a brief chilling session.
This bottle will pair well with flaky white fish, a scattering of shellfish, or a crunchy salad.
Santo Wines Crescendo
How about a Greek red blend to get the mouth-watering? This bottle comes with three native Greek grapes: Mandilaria, Voudomato, and Mavrotragano.
The result is a delicate, yet powerful wine just bursting with character. You have a floral aroma balanced out by a spiced, dark cherry flavor profile, fantastic for hearty steaks or roasted potatoes.
Argyros Santorini Estate Assyrtiko 2020
If you’re curious to try another side to Assyrtiko, Argyros Santorini has the bottle for you. While still quite acidic and crisp, this bottle has a subtle herbal kick that immediately stands out.
Consider pairing this wine alongside hearty dishes such as pork or duck to bring out its sharp, tangy flavors.
Argyros Atlantis Red 2018
Fans of intensely fruity wines, step up. This aged bottle of Argyros Atlantis Red will be popular for wine drinkers who love Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec.
Expect a bold showcase of smoky, spiced fruit and a bitter finish, ideal for a rare steak dinner or robust barbecue platter.
Sigalas Santorini M M 2020
Red blends are a great way to try multiple Greek grapes in one place. Half this bottle is Mavrotragano, while the other half is Mandilaria.
Mavrotragano has slowly grown more popular in Santorini for its plummy flavors and lower tannic profile, similar to Merlot.
Mandilaria is the opposite, with delicate flavors and a light body. These contrasting grapes result in a unique bottle that’s both floral and gently spiced, potpourri-like in nature.
Pair this bottle with delicate food such as white cheese or flaky fish.
Sigalas MM Rosé 2021
Curious to try the above wine in rosé form? Using the same grape varieties, this bottle brings out an entirely new side to the same formula.
Expect a medley of ripe red fruit and sweet berries with a faintly spiced aftertaste. This bottle boasts a very long finish, making it a little more robust than your average rosé.
Set this wine in a bucket of ice before drinking to bring out its acidity.
Sigalas Aidani 2020
Let’s wrap up the list with another characteristic Greek wine: Aidani. You’ll find this variety grown throughout Santorini and Rhodes, though you can find it throughout the entire country.
What makes this wine so memorable to drinkers is its bone-dry character and lean toward tangy, mineral flavors. With floral flavors and hints of tropical fruit, this wine will be an ideal pairing with rice or seafood-based dishes.
Why You Should Try Wines of Santorini
Santorini wines are a showcase of humanity’s ingenuity in viticulture. When you try a Greek wine, you are quite literally tasting the efforts of thousands of years of hard work.
Santorini wines are made with techniques dating all the way back to Roman and Ottoman occupation.
Native wine grapes found in Santorini include Assyrtiko, Aidani, and Mavrotragano, all of which are required to be grown within the region to earn a certificate of authenticity. Santorini also boasts several compelling winemaking styles such as Nykteri and Mezzo.
Santorini wines are as fascinating to learn about as they are to drink. We highly recommend you invest in a bottle from this region to expand your wine knowledge.