If there’s one place I could say I’d like to revisit more than any other place in the world, hands down, it would be?Greece. With its sleepy island towns, whitewashed buildings, sandy shores, ancient history and fresh seafood, the?classic?images are readily found on the movie screen, in photographs, and probably?in?your dreams. While a freshman in high school, I spent about six weeks touring the country with my family. Which means I wasn’t exploring wines. But, it was a gift I’ll never forget, and it’s fueled a fire to return and see it through the eyes of the?wine lover I’ve become.
Perhaps it?s the legend of Atlantis, or perhaps the birthplace of legendary wine. Santorini is a Greek island that is part of the South Aegean Volcanic Arc surrounding a giant caldera. The volcanic activity and geographic location has provided the island with the perfect spot for growing grapes. Producing wines that are a combination of earth, wind, fire and sea; it was here, surrounded by the breathtaking beauty of the Aegean Sea, that the lovely white wine grape Assyrtiko was born.
Assyrtiko from Santorini is very rare, very distinctive and cultivated in some of the world?s oldest vineyards. This wine grape was first cultivated on the Greek island of Santorini, where it is still grown today. It can be found scattered around other Greek wine regions as well, but only on Santorini does it produce its greatest expression of character due to the arid, volcanic-rich ash soil it is planted in.
Rainfall is low on Santorini and there is abundant sunshine, but the vines miraculously obtain an adequate water supply from the rain it does get, as well as dew and moisture from the sea. Old vines, poor soils, water stress, and strong island winds lead to low yields of dense wines with opulent structure, a magical combination. Because of the strong island winds, local producers have developed their own unique growing system that includes growing the vines on the ground in round, basket-type bushes where the outer leaves and vines protect the grapes from the elements. There?s a great picture of this method here.
Much of the original plantations are still on their original rootstock, as the vines seem to have a natural resistant to the Phylloxera outbreaks that have impacted much of Europe.
Expect wines that erupt with citrus flavor and minerality. They?re full bodied and bone dry, retaining high levels of alcohol and acidity, even if very ripe (which allows for long aging potential).
Ideal complement to fish, shellfish and even meat dishes. Serve alongside this delicious Greek halibut recipe, as well as oysters, seared scallops, salmon, roasted cauliflower and even sushi.
2014 Domaine Sigalis Santorini Assyrtiko – Let this wine transport you to faraway places. Pale golden highlights the color of Helen of Troy?s hair. Notes of honeysuckle, Meyer lemon and grapefruit zest are vibrant, full, rich and warm. One sip and you?ll be thinking of whitewashed buildings and and lingering meals at restaurants dramatically perched atop towering cliffs overlooking the miraculously blue ocean.