What to Eat in Santorini
Santorini is arguably most well known for its delicious wines. The main grape of Santorini is Assyrtiko, a precious vine with a unique heritage and grown in a striking terroir. It produces dry white wines that can be enjoyed both young and aged. It has broad structure, fresh, crisp acidity, high alcohol content, which manages to be very balanced, distinctive citrus aromas and intense minerality. The wines that are aged in oak reveal a more solid structure and increased aromatic complexity. Assyrtiko is a rare, unique, precious, internationally acclaimed, "pedigree" wine, ideal for complex dishes, fish and seafood. There is also another local specialty, called Vinsanto, which is a sweet wine made from sun-dried Assyrtiko grapes. Vinsanto is an intense, concentrated, rich yet firm wine that could age for several decades. One of the greatest wines in the world, it can match either desserts or rich, savoury dishes.
Santorini's terroir is unique in the world, shaped by the volcano of Thera, its caldera and, of course, the Aegean Sea. Soil is volcanic and porous, consisting of lava, Therean ash and pumice, with a complete absence of organic matter. There is an insular Mediterranean climate with calm winters, cool summers, droughts and strong winds, called meltemia. However, sea mists during the summer months offer the necessary hydration for the vines. In a unique ecosystem that protects the vines from illness and other hazards, Santorini's vineyard is self-rooted, anhydrous and never affected by phylloxera. Actually, Santorini is not phylloxera-free, but phylloxera-immune. Phylloxera needs at least 5 percent clay to spread, while Santorini has zero clay. Thus, it is potentially the world's oldest vineyard, dating back an estimated 3,500 years. The majority of vines are, on average, 50-100 years old or more and the yields, about 15hl/ha, are the lowest in Greece. Definitely a vineyard worth a visit!
Vines are grown in kouloures (rings) or kalathia (baskets), a traditional technique that involves wrapping canes in a low-lying basket shape, protecting the vine from strong winds and intense sunlight-a direct result of the grower's collective experience through the centuries for the adaptation of viticulture to this unique ecosystem. Since the soil has no phylloxera, the upper part of the vine, the kalathi, is usually replaced every 15-20 years, while the root system is preserved. In some cases, this results in vines whose above-ground part is a few decades old, while the root system is several centuries old, an impressive fact that underlines the uniqueness of the Santorinian terroir. The degree of human care is impressive, with all the viticultural labour done by hand, including the harvesting, which is the first in Greece, usually due at the beginning of August.