Lined one after the other, bent down low to avoid the strong winds, with their branches twisted in intricate patterns, the vines of Santorini have an age-long history. The volcanic soil has worked its miracle -and the island’s wineries their own, offering better quality and more labels each year. Topmost among others, is the award-winning sweet wine Vinsanto, the “wine of the sun”, as they call it.
ROOTS IN THE VOLCANIC SOIL. The vineyard fructifying in the island’s arid environment is historic and one of a kind. Covering an area of about 1,400 hectares, it starts smoothly from sea level and ends in terraces on the caldera, at an altitude of 150-250 metres. The vineyard of Santorini is ancient, as are its varieties. Excavation findings in Akrotiri, a prehistoric settlement, reveal that grapes were grown on the island at least since the 17th century BC. The prehistoric vineyard was destroyed by the great volcanic eruption around 1600 BC. The new igneous soil gave birth to another vineyard around 1200 BC. Therefore, we wouldn’t exaggerate if we said that the vineyard of Santorini is more than 3,200 years old, since it has been cultivated non-stop during all this time.
The vine and wine have played a fundamental role in the island’s economic, social and financial life for centuries. Vines are self-rooting (not grafted), live more than 50 years, and grow on the porous ground, rich in pumice and porcelain. From ancient times to this day, the vineyard is being renewed in the same way, i.e. by layering
THE VINES OF SANTORINI
They are real works of art and their ancient pruning technique is quite exceptional. Many factors have contributed to the development of this technique: the sandy soil, the strong winds blowing at spring, and the hot summer sun. Varieties in Santorini include the white Asyrtiko (cultivated at a percentage of 80%), the best known variety of the Mediterranean grapevine, and, in smaller quantities, Athiri and Aidani, along with other local varieties. Among red grape varieties, Mandilari and Mavrotragano are the most prominent. You will come across wineries in many places on the -arid, as for the rest- island, such as Pyrgos, Kamari, Episkopi Gonia, Emporeio, Akrotiri, Megalochori, as well as near Oia, Fira, and Imerovigli. There are several wineries that you can visit. During July and August you can attend to the harvesting process.
KANAVES (OLD WINERIES)
Until the 20th century, there were many kánaves (old wineries) on the island. They were outside the Castelia, around the settlements, or in the countryside, always close to their owner’s residence. Wineries were usually rock-hewn underground or protected by nearby buildings. They had two winepresses, one big for the white grapes, and one small for the red ones. There were also two cylindrical tanks in the ground, where the must was collected and then poured into vats to ferment. Some wineries had a third winepress for the sweet Vinsanto wine. Vats were stored side by side on low benches inside large rooms. At the roof of the building there was an opening from which they threw in the grapes. A smaller opening served as ventilation, mainly during the time when people trod upon the grapes to extract the must. In order to discover some of the old kanaves you may visit Foinikia, Perivolas in Oia, Megalochori, Mesa Gonia, Pyrgos area.