Who needs to watch the Royal marriage? We’re living like royalty in Santorini. Our hotel is part of the Small Luxury Hotels and we had our first two winery visits so we are in bliss.
We started at Gaia Winery, not pronounced at all like the famous Barbaresco producer. The G here is more like Yea- yea-ahh, arguably one of the top producers of the island. Santorini is one tough place to grow grapes: little water, hot summers, fierce winds. They don’t trellise but rather weave the vines into the shape of a bird’s nest, close to the ground.
Our first wine was Thalassistis 2017, 100% Assyrtiko, the grape that has put the island on the wine map of the world. There is several hours’ skin contact before fermentation; the result is the essence of the grape: citrus and salinity. This is a wine made for food, with high yet well balanced acidity.
Our next wine was the Assyrtiko Wild Ferment 2017, 12 hour skin contact before fermentation in small new oak barriques, then followed by batonnage to stir the lees. The result: yellow gold color, vanilla aromas mingle with the acidity. Then we were served the Thalassitis Oak Fermented 2016, fermented and aged in small oak barriques- well balanced, rich and velvety.
After came the Gaia new world version of Retsina, called Ritinitis Nobilis, from the Roditis grape- mildly resinated, with a refreshing balance of pine and citrus flavors. We ended with the Vinsanto, which we found was vindicated in court when Italy sued in the EU for using the nomenclature. However it was proved that Vinsanto existed well before the Italian version found in Tuscany.
Gaia only produces 150,000 bottles annually.
We then went to the larger Santo Winery, a cooperative with 1,200 members. We learned they use 3 white grapes: Assyrtiki, Athiri and Aidano, and 2 red grapes: Mandilaria and Mavrotragano.We tasted 4 of their wines as a wedding was taking place nearby:2 whites- Assyrtiko and Nykteri, a red: Kameni, made by a method remniscent of Valpolicella where sun dried red grapes are added to the fermenting must. We ended with another rendition of Vinsanto.
Our welcome dinner was near our hotel, on a veranda overlooking the Caldera.A great beginning to our Greek Islands tour.