The vineyards of Santorini

Santorini vineyards

White varieties hold sway in the vineyards of Santorini, with Assyrtiko being the most prominent cultivar on 1,700 acres and the aromatic Aidani coming a close second. Most of the vineyards are found in the southern and southwestern part of the island, on soil of volcanic origin (santorin or pumic stone ) and sandy composition, with virtually zero moisture capacity and organic matter -which explains the absence of phylloxera. The extremely low fertility of the soil, especially its low potassium levels, seems to contribute to the high acidity of Assyrtiko grapes when fully ripe. The climate is dry with a mere 14 inches of annual rainfall, yet proximity to the sea and the permanent moist winds lower the high daytime temperatures in summer. Given these conditions, the island’s vintners train the vine stocks into traditional wreath-like baskets (known as “kouloura,” “paneri” or “ambelia”) in order to shelter the grapes from the wind and direct exposure to sunlight. The average yields per acre of the vineyards of Santorini do not exceed 3,100 lbs. Harvesting usually begins within the first 10 days of August, but in the area of Pyrgos, the island’s highest point at an altitude of 1,100 feet, grapes are harvested later and thus reach the peak of their aromatic potential.