Let’s go on an adventure to a place variously described as, ‘Like being shot to the moon with a glass of fine wine in your hand’ and where, ‘you basically have the personality of an active volcano in your glass.’
Santorini is arguably the ultimate wine destination – a windswept, arid, infertile outcrop of an island in the glittering Aegean Sea. Stunning – but bleak, and where the memory of one of the most violet volcanic eruptions in human history can not only be seen but also tasted in your glass.
Wine is one of the few crops to thrive here, albeit at the cost of back-breaking labour and marginal profitability due to tiny yields and regular setbacks. The island’s historic sweet vinsantos have most likely been enjoyed for thousands of years – the dry whites made from the majestic, fierce Assyrtiko grape are astonishing symphonies of bracing acidity, steely structure and salty minerality.
These are true jewels in the wine world’s crown. One producer speculates, with good reason, that Santorini, ‘is the oldest vineyard on the planet.’ Phylloxera-free, you see… Hence the Jurassic Park reference.
For Peter, Santorini Assyrtiko is the ultimate food wine, able to pair with everything from delicate oysters to rich lamb and beyond. No wonder one wine grower describes this place as, ‘the Mecca of wine’.
But all is not well in wine paradise. Climate change batters the vineyard in the form of heatwaves and hail. Mass tourism threatens not only to overwhelm the island’s infrastructure and drain the workforce but, more critically, erase vineyards permanently as land is sold to developers.
The result is that Santorini’s vineyard has declined by a third between 2005 and 2022. ‘Sometimes in Santorini it feels like we’re forgotten by God,’ commented one local wine producer.
Now, though, the island’s wine community is fighting back. In this first episode of a two-part mini-series in collaboration with Wines of PDO Santorini, we set the scene – taking in the island’s intriguing history, exploring the bizarre vineyards, talking to key wine producers, and not shying away from the challenges the island’s wine community faces.
As for how the wine producers are fighting to ensure wine’s survival, we discover plans to declare the entire island’s production organic – which would be the first ever entire PDO appellation to do such.
There’s also a UNESCO application in the pipeline – and plans to raise prices in order to ensure the survival of the vineyard.
Don’t miss the next and final episode in this mini-series, where we explore Santorini’s fierce, remarkable grapes, wine and food – and look to the future, both in terms of challenges but also reasons to be hopeful.
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In this episode, Peter makes the potentially controversial assertions that Santorini is the ULTIMATE wine destination – and also that Santorini Assyrtiko is the ULTIMATE food wine.
That’s a lot of ultimates. And slightly shouty capitals.
Either way – do you agree? If not, let us know what you’d suggest as rivals to these brave claims…we’d love to hear your views.
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This two-part mini series was developed in collaboration with Wines of PDO Santorini and co-financed by the European Union and Greece.
Here’s a link to the Wines of Santorini Facebook page.