Summer’s finally here, and all we want to be drinking is something thirst-quenching and cold. Next time the craving for a chilled glass of white strikes, forget your go-to Sauvignon Blanc and spring for something more interesting instead; think, a bottle of white that transports you to sandy beaches, salty air, and nothing but sunny afternoons as far as the eye can see. Not sure where to start? Look no further than the mouthwatering whites of Greece’s leading island, Santorini.
Santorini isn’t only one of the most breathtaking islands to visit in the entire world; in fact, the island is home to some of the world’s oldest continually fruit-producing vines, thanks to the region’s phylloxera-resistant soils. White wines dominate in Santorini, with Assyrtiko being the key player in the island’s supreme, high-acid white production. Assyrtiko accounts for nearly 65-70% of grapes grown in Santorini. Ashy, volcanic soil and foggy night mists from the island’s caldera provides the wines with incredibly high-acidity, dominated by flinty notes of citrus and smoke. Though Assyrtiko may be grown all over Santorini, it’s indisputable that the grape shines best in its original habitat.
Find your mouth watering for a crisp glass of white? We thought so. Discover just how versatile Santorini’s Assyrtiko can be through these seven bottles.
Santo Sparkling Assyrtiko 2013
Produced in the méthode traditionelle, this 100% Assyrtiko shows striking acidity on the palate, proof that the grape is ideal for sparkling wine production. Beginning just a few years back, bubbly production is a relatively new venture for Santo wines, with their follow up rosé sparkling cuvée debuting this year. Refreshing, crisp, and brimming with zesty apple notes, Santo’s vintage Brut Sparkling Assyrtiko is not to be missed.
Domaine Sigalas Assyrtiko Santorini 2016
Domaine Sigalas is regarded as one of the best wineries in all of Greece, producing Assyrtiko-based wines that are clean and pure. Found in the sub-region of Oia, Sigalas’ vines average an impressive 60 years in age and are basket trained, ideal for fighting the harsh seaside breezes and bracing island heat. The flavor profile is classically mineral-dense, with bright citrus fruit notes and lingering finish.
Gai’a Assyrtiko ‘Wild Ferment’ 2015
Another highly regarded Santorini legend, Gai’a Estate has been producing world class Assyrtiko for over two decades. The Assyrtiko for the ‘Wild Ferment’ cuvée comes from a more northerly vineyard in Pyrgos, which agriculturalist/oenologist Yiannis Paraskevopoulos deems more aromatic. ‘Wild Ferment’ ferments with indigenous yeasts after 12 hours of skin contact, producing a rich, aromatic wine notes of honeyed stone fruit.
Boutari Santorini Assyrtiko 2016
Since opening their Santorini-based winery in 1989, Boutari has continuously raised the standard for quality Greek wine. The winery prides itself on being one of the first to bring “modern vinification methods, [including oak barrels and temperature controlled vats] to the island. Their 2016 Assyrtiko is zesty and rich, with a chalky notes of saline and citrus. A perfect match for green salads and grilled chicken.
Domaine Sigalas Nychteri Assyrtiko 2013
And for a higher-end Assyrtiko-based wine, look no further than Domaine Sigalas’ ‘Nychteri’ bottling. Nychteri (or Nykteri) style wines get their name from the Greek word for night (nychta), as that’s when grape harvesting takes place. Morning dew and cooler temperatures preserve acidity in the grapes and keep oxidation from hot, Santorini heat at bay. Domaine Sigalas’ Nychteri is fermented and aged in old oak, on the lees, for at least 2.5 years. Market release occurs three years later. The wine is richer and creamier than younger Assyrtiko-based wines, yet still maintains a zesty, mouthwatering acidity. A truly special bottle from one of Santorini’s most noteworthy producers.