It’s no secret that Santorini and Paros are two of the most beautiful islands in the world. Few realize amid the whitewashed architecture lies a unique, robust wine culture. We visited three wineries, Boutari, Venetsanos and Moraitis, in the Cyclades. We are excited to uncork the full flavor of these Greek wines for you.
Although there are over 6,000 islands in Greece (only 227 are inhabited), the country can be divided into four climatic zones. The Santorini and Paros are in the Cyclades. These Cyclades islands are located is in the Aegean Sea, roughly halfway between Athens and Crete.
Northern Greece (Wet): Epirus, Macedonia and Thrace
Aegean Islands (Arid): Mediterranean Islands (Cyclades Islands, Samos, Límnos)
Central Greece (Modulating Mediterranean): Central Greece, Thessaly, and Attica
Southern Greece (Stable Mediterranean): Crete, Peloponnese, and Kefalonia
Source: Wine Folly
Greece is one of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world, dating back to ancient times. The vineyards and wines of Santorini are truly one of a kind. Santorini’s volcanic soil, strong winds, light rainfall and hot, dry summers produce unique wines with complex flavor profiles. Assyrtiko is the island’s flagship grape, which is high acid and full of citrus and mineral nuances. Nykteri and VinSanto are other popular wines. We visited Boutari and Venetsanos wineries in Santorini.
Boutari Winery was established in 1879 in Naoussa, Paros and is one of the leading wineries in Greece. In 1989, Boutari opened a beautiful white-domed winery in Santorini.
Local white varietals include Assyrtiko, Athiri and Aidani, Kallisti, Moschofilero and Nykteri. The dessert wines include Vinsanto (white) and the Ampeliastos (red). This winery has an auditorium, a tasting room and a wine shop where you can buy Boutari Wines from its various wine regions.
We enjoyed a 5-flight wine tasting and cheese pairing. Greek wines often have hints of passion fruit, flint and lemon. One of our favorites was the Oropedio, a dry white wine made from the Moschofilero varietal with notes of wild white rose and citrus. We also loved the world renowned VinSanto, a sun-dried sweet wine dessert wine made of Αssyrtiko with notes of honey, fruits glacés, raisins and spices.
We toured the vineyard and the wine cellar and watched the harvesting of the grapes. The vineyards in Santorini are very different from Napa or France. Greek vines are grown in the “koulara” method, and woven into continuous circles to form a basket for protection from the strong winds and harsh summer sun. They are low to the ground and very different from Napa/France.
We also visited Venetsanos winery in Santorini. This winery is located above the port of Athinios and overlooks a beautiful caldera.
This family owned winery was built in 1947 and was the first industrial winery on the island. The panoramic views are breathtaking.
On our tour, we learned about the winery’s innovative wine production methods. The winery’s structural design is quite impressive. Originally the winery used gravity to transport the wine from the top of the mountain to the port below. A portion of this winery also resembles a museum. You can view some of the early wine making equipment and get a better sense of the early Greek wine making process.
We enjoyed a 5-flight wine tasting that was paired with a cheese and charcuterie plate. We sampled a mix of white, rosé, red and VinSanto. We sipped our wines while sitting on an beautiful terrace overlooking the caldera. Our favorite was the dark terra-cotta VinSanto with notes of dried fig, plum and spices.
Paros is north of Santorini and south of Mykonos, and also enjoys a Mediterranean climate. Paros was under Venetian rule in the 13th century. During this time, a blended sweet white wine known as Monemvasia was produced in Paros. We visited Moraitis winery in Paros.
This family winery started in 1910 and currently serves several varietals including: Mantilaria, Aidani, Kokkino, Karabraimi, Monemvasia, Assyrtiko, Malagouzia, White Aidani, Malvasia, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah. A single-complex includes winemaking, production, bottling and storage areas. The old winery building is home to the cellar, the wine museum and the wine tasting room.
We enjoyed a flight of 5 wines and a delicious cheese plate.
The white and dessert wines were our favorites and of course we brought some back to New York for our next Greek dinner party. We also walked into the cellar and learned that Paros uses the wine growing technique of “aplotaria”, which allows the vine to spread on the ground, so that the grapes are protected from the sun and winds.
Thank you Boutari, Venetsanos and Moraitis for taking such good care of us in your wineries.
Have you been wine tasting in Greece? Tell us your favorite wineries in the comments below.
“God many only water, but man made wine.” – Victor Hugo