Santoríni is one of Greece’s premier white wine producers. Because of its exclusively volcanic soil, its vines were among the few in Europe to be spared the deadly plant lice phylloxera, so the original rootstock remains intact; the average age of an assyrtiko vine, the main variety of grape, is 70 years, and the oldest vines, near Akrotíri, go back over 150 years. Assyrtiko yields everything from a bone-dry light wine to a sweet aged vinsanto from sun-dried grapes.
Because of the wind the vines are kept low and often protected by woven cane; some fields look as if they’re growing baskets. Moribund for many years, churning out high-alcohol, low-quality plonk, the Santoríni wine industry has recently had a shot in the arm from the forward-thinking national winemaker Boutari, who in 1988 built a new domed winery, restaurant, and accessory shop at Megalochóri.
Images by Jameson Fink, seligmanwaite