Santorini is famous for its wine and unique vinification process. Even though we spent our first day on Santorini on a Wine and Food Lovers Tour tasting Santorini’s best wines and learning how to cook some of its famous dishes like tomato fritters, as two oenophiles we couldn’t get enough! There are just 9 of Santorini’s once more than 40 wineries remaining and we were on a mission to visit as many of them as we could. Most wineries are not open to the public for tours and tastings, though you can walk in and purchase bottles from their wine shops. We like to taste before we buy and buy we did – thankfully we didn’t have to lug our bags laden with bottles of wine up the steep cliff thanks to the kind porters at Astra Suites – so we were more than happy to join the Santorini Wine Roads tour.
Our guide, Vaios, who is a certified sommelier with a passion for the unique Santorini wine, picked us and the other wine tour passengers up from our respective hotels in a comfortable air conditioned bus. With a driver, Vaios could focus his attention on pointing out the unique Santorini landscape and giving us a bit of history on wine making in Santorini as we drove along.
We were visiting three wineries on this tour, though didn’t know which ones in advance. Our first visit was to the 300 year old Gavalas Winery, Santorini’s oldest and one we had actually visited on our Wine and Food Lovers Tour. We didn’t mind though as we had purchased a few bottles from Gavalas and were happy to drink more of their fine wine, especially the 2011 Xenoloo, a red, and our favorite Vinsanto from the island.
As Estate Argyros, established in 1903 and run by a 4th generation wine maker of the Argyros Family, we had a pleasant surprise. Estate Argyros produces the wonderful Atlantis wines provided each night complimentary to guests of Astra Suites that we were enjoying so much. We also discovered that a complete genius decided to put Vinsanto wine in a chocolate bar and that you could purchase them in the wine shop. Chocolate and Vinsanto combined? Hello, heaven in a wrapper!
We also tasted several other wines we very much enjoyed. Estate Argyros is the only winery that produces 100% Aidani, a rare indigenous grape to Santorini. Aidani is typically used as a blending grape, but we liked the green apple on the palate and quick finish of the 2012 Aidani. The 2010 French Oak Fermented Santorini was voted amongst the 25 best white wines of the world and, with one sip, it’s easy to taste why. The wine is smooth with a velvety finish and has a nutty taste. It’s definitely a white to be enjoyed with food as opposed to the Aidani, which is a nice refreshing sipping wine. We also particularly enjoyed the 2010 Mavrotragano, a spicy and complex red that is considered an experimental wine, since not many red grape varieties are grown on the island. Also best appreciated with food, we could totally see ourselves enjoying this wine with a local dish like rabbit stew or the rabbit matsata we’d had on Folegandros.
Our final winery took us on a drive from practically one end of Santorini to the other. Domaine Sigalas is located on the plain below the cliffs of Oia. What we found totally unique about this winery is that, unlike everywhere else on the island where the grapes grow on the ground in their basket, the vines are grown in the traditional method we’re used to seeing everywhere else.
Food often enhances the flavors in wines, and a lovely plate of local Greek cheese awaited us. Though we had tasted several assyrtiko wines, the most common grape variety, we liked the 2012 Sigalas Assyrtiko-Athiri Santorini. It seems to tingle on the tongue like a sparkling wine would do, though it is not a sparkling wine. A young and refreshing wine, it’s perfect for sipping. Sigalas also has a 2010 Mavrotragano and with the cheese, we could truly appreciate its full potential. Spicy, yet slightly sweet with tastes of figs and perfect to enjoy with rich dishes. We finished off the tasting with something different than Vinsanto, though also produced from sun-dried grapes. The 2008 Sigalas Apiliotis is a bit like Vinsanto, though can’t be called Vinsanto because it is made from red and not white grapes. I liked the red fruits tastes and the complex after-taste and found that because it isn’t so sweet as Vinsanto, it’s a bit more drinkable. Vinsanto is served usually in a shot glass to be slowly sipped and is a dessert in and of itself.
The Santorini Wine Roads Tour was a lovely way to spend an afternoon and we immensely enjoyed the different wines at each of the wineries. Our only complaint was the the tour ended so close to sunset, that it would have been wonderful to end the tour with a glass of wine to watch it with. We did get dropped off at our hotel just in time to watch the last few minutes as the caldera illuminates in glorious golden shades.
Know Before You Go
- your own Santorini Wine Roads tour can be booked with Winerist.and costs €75 per person.
- Round trip transportation to/from your hotel in a comfortable air-conditioned mini bus is included and the tour lasts approximately 5 hours.
- Children under 14 years of age are not permitted on this tour.
Our Santorini Wine Roads tour was made possible by The Winerist, a website for wine travel made simple. As always, all opinions are entirely our own.