One of the main regrets of my trip to Santorini last year was the fact I didn’t have time to go to a vineyard. Whilst I was there I started to realise how good the wine was and wanted to find out more. I was lucky enough to go back at the beginning of October and was determined to check out a few of the wineries and not spend all of my time at the beach.
Estate Argryos is a must-visit if you’re visiting Santorini
I stayed in Kamari close to the beach, and after doing a bit of research realised that the Estate Argyros was close by in Episkopi Gonia (about ten minutes away by local bus, which runs every twenty minutes and is only 1.80 euros per trip). It’s easily recognisable from the road, ultra-modern bright white buildings and grey concrete arches behind lines and lines of vines (120 hectares of some of the oldest wines on the island, to be precise). Established in 1903, today the estate is managed by 4th generation winemaker Matthew Argyros who comes from a family with a longstanding reputation for excellence in winemaking. Make no mistake, here you’ll find world class wines and a dedicated commitment to protecting the unique Santorinian grape varieties and their pure character.
Their staff are also second-to-none – I was welcomed by their Director of Science, Evangelos Beris who has a Ph.D in Agriculture and is an expert on winemaking (he’s also a lecturer in Oenology – study of wine – at Athens University). His tour is extremely comprehensive and you leave feeling like you’ll no longer choose wine based on the pretty labels anymore. Here’s what I learned:
The terroir in Santorini is unique – a volcanic island with extreme winds and lots of sunshine, with soil composed of volcanic ash, sand, pumice and lava stone.
The vines are the original uncrafted rootstock (not grafted onto vines from somewhere else) which means that the vines are phyloxera free. They are basket pruned by hand and not irrigated
Terroir is made up of a number of factors – the aspect/slope of the land, rainfall, winds, soil and the altitude
The main grape in Santorini is Assyrtiko which is characterised by high acidity, intense minerality and distinct salinity and reflect the volcanic soil and extreme microclimate of the island. Other grape varieties include Aidani and Mavrotmagano.
The tour included the vineyard and the production area which had a science lab and giant stainless steel vats. Grapes are chosen by a strict selection process involving ten staff members. Then the grapes are destemmed, crushed and pressed by pneumatic pressed which separate the grapes from the juice. They have fifty staff members overall – half work in the field.
Just some of the top quality wine available
After the tour we went back into the bar area for the wine tasting. We were presented with a delicious tasting platter for the food pairing. The Estate Arygros Assyrtiko was the first wine we tasted – 80% of the grape is fermented in stainless steel vats, the remaining 20% ferments and ages for six month in French oak barrels. It’s incredible – full bodied with vanilla, honey and smoked pineapple/citrus flavours which develop into tropical fruit flavours as it ages. It was great paired with the smoked cheese and pork.
The delicious food pairing platter
Next we tried the Aidani, the second most popular grape in Santorini which is aromatic and refreshing with notes of scented herbs and flowers, white peach and citrus. This wine is fermented in stainless steel vats and goes well with salad, seafood and fish. The Santorini Assrytiko is made from 100% assyrtiko grapes and is only fermented in stainless steel vats. I loved the lime and citrus flavours and the clean and crispy finish. It is perfect with seafood, fish and sushi.
I’m a really big fan of dessert wine and often choose it instead of a dessert thinking I’m being healthier! I was looking forward to trying the famous Vinsanto, a naturally sweet wine made with white sundried grapes which are dried in the sun for two weeks. At Estate Argyros you can find a 4 year old, a 12 year old and a 20 year old Vinsanto and are all a blend of 80% Assyrtiko, 10% Aidani and 10% Athiri. Estate Argyros Vinsantos have won numerous awards and score very highly in Robert Parker points. It’s often used to great effect in sauces to accompany meat. I tried the 12 year old Vinsanto which was amazing with strong notes of raisins, butterscotch and figs. It goes particularly well with goats cheese and foie gras. They also make a Vinsanto chocolate bar (the Vinsanto is made into a jelly which runs through the centre) which didn’t last for long after I bought it. You’re spoilt for choice with vineyards to visit in Santorini (there are fourteen) but Estate Argyros should definitely be high on your list.
Wine fans and foodies came out in force for an evening with wine expert Oz Clarke at Jesmond Dene House…
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