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The charred Greek isle of Santorini, famed for extraordinary sunsets, is also known for its successful viticulture, grown productively in the volcanic soil using unique, basket-shaped ‘kouloura’ vines which keep the Cycladic sun and wind at bay, but collect moisture at night.
Santorini is home to some of the world’s oldest vines, with a wine-making culture that burgeoned in medieval times; today we seek out Santorini’s best winemakers and their vineyards where you can taste it for yourself.
This sleek and chic winery, located in the centre of the blackened volcanic interior of Santorini was established in 1903 by the Argyros family, now in its fourth generation of wine producers. One of the standout family members and driver of change was Yiannis Argyos, who in 1974 propelled the famed Santorini sweet wine vinsantos into the international arena alongside showcasing the dry assyrtiko wine to acclaim.
Coming to Argyros’ winery you’ll find a large and impressive contemporary structure welcoming you, where on a wine tour you can learn all about the old vines including the nuances of harvest and their organic method including lack of pesticides and the manual work carried out by mules. Taste the cuvees of the estate produced for more than 110 years – enjoying its small but perfectly crafted range of wines including dry whites, rose and the sweet vinsanto, accompanied by a selection of artisanal cheese and cold cuts.
With premium views over the caldera, Gavalas Winery is found in coastal Megalochori, a classic Santorini village of narrow alleys, whitewashed architecture and archetypal, blue-domed churches. Now in its fourth generation, George Gavalas and his son Vagelis produce limited bottlings in the ancient stone winery, cellar and grape stomping room with a modern extension containing technology that assists with the wine process.
Gavalas vineyard showcases Santorini’s most famous wine Assyrtiko, as well as Aidani, Mandilaria and Mavrotragano, plus rare indigenous varieties of Katsano and Voudomato. So, it’s the ideal place for oenophiles to come for a full overview of Santorini’s wine production. Guided by Gavalas sommeliers, you will learn about Santorini’s unique terroir, the production of the wine, plus tastings, of course, underpinned by an overview of the history and tradition including a walk around the ancient buildings. Finish on the rooftop garden offering fine wines and astonishing views of the caldera, encapsulating two of Santorini’s highlights.
Named after the winemaker and oenologist, Mr. Haridimos Hatzidakis, Hatzidakis Winery is located in the village of Pyrgos, one of the highest points of the island. Pick up a bottle of Hatzidakis wine if you’re in Berry Brothers and Rudd, the esteemed wine merchant of St James’, London or visit the winery if you happen to be in the locale of the volcanic isle of Santorini.
Founded by Haridimos Hatzidakis and Konstantina Chryssou, the land originally belonged to Konstantina’s family, and became overgrown once her parents left for Athens after the earthquake in 1956. When they re-discovered it, they found a cave which they began to use as a small underground winery. Today, Hatzidakis Winery cultivates 10 hectares of vineyards, producing mostly organic wine. Tastings are purist affairs - taking place in the cave of wine ageing barrels, seated at monastery tables where you’ll try six different wines accompanied by Naxos cheese and barley bread. A true Santorinian experience.
Possessing an exceptional position, located amongst the gentle shelves of Santorini’s cliff face, Venetsanos Winery is absurdly beautiful. High up above the port of Athinios, the winery faces the vast panorama of sky, Aegean Sea and volcanic islets that make up the caldera. Built in 1974, the Venetsanos family began as simply vine-growers before they quickly realised the potential of these hardy vines, and Venetsanos Winery became the first industrial winery on the island.
Today the gorgeous location is the perfect spot to soak up Aegean views and taste fine wines, from the wineries’ 15 hectares of vineyards mostly producing Assyrtiko with other grape varieties such as Athiri, Aidani, Platani, Mavrotragano, and Mandilaria. The famous vinsanto is not easily forgotten – the naturally sweet dessert wine created from grapes left to dry naturally in the sun. If you prefer, you can pair your wine tasting with lunch – choose from a selection of grilled fish, seafood, salads and platters of white cheeses.