Santorini: Trouble in Paradise?

Santorini is not only one of the hot spots for tourism; it’s also a very hot spot literally. So much so that 2019 may be one of the worst years ever for the production of the popular Assyrtiko.

There are only 26 days average of rainfall annually which yields on average 3oo mm of rain (11.8 inches). The island has an almost desert-like aura. By contrast Bordeaux has annual rainfall of over 900 mm, triple the amount.

Back in January through March, the island had unusually violent storms which brought a lot of rain (550 mm) and strong winds. The big increase in rain is not helpful since it can lead to mildew. The kouloura or basket trellis system used on the island protects the grapes from wind and also helps capture the morning sea mist, which is how the vines survive.

kouloura on Santorini

The result this year has been a disaster. Harvest has started on the island and producers are all lamenting the extremely low yields. Most are getting 50% to 60% less grapes; one grape grower had no grapes to harvest.

The result could lead to higher prices in a market that seems to have peaked. Some wineries still have unsold stocks so raising prices is not a good option.

I personally don’t know how any of the wineries survive on Santorini, especially in the Summer season when the island is literally invaded by tourists. And a proliferation of wineries exacerbates an already tenuous situation.

Assyrtiko from Santorini is a wonderful wine, not to be confused with mainland Assyrtiko. Let’s hope nature helps out so that winemakers can survive this tough vintage and continue producing this delicious wine.

You can read more details from a commentator on Greek wines, Yiannis Karakasis.

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