Santorini’s sweet white wine or “ambrosia of the gods”? Although the first answer is a certainty (Vino di Santorini), the second is equally appropriate since Santorini’s grand Vinsanto (PDO Santorini) is indeed fit for the gods! Although Vinsanto has been renowned since the 12th century, it did not acquire true fame until after 1783 when it journeyed to Russia’s large markets. Today, more than two centuries later, this rare, sweet diamond of the land of Thera still performs so spectacularly that it is not exaggeration to claim that its place among the top dessert wines worldwide has been rightfully earned. It all begins with the unique terroir of the world-famous island of Santorini. The volcanic soil striated with pumice stone, age-old vines, incredibly low yields, the presence of morning dew which ensures that the vines receive the water necessary, a weather-beaten, sun-scorched terrain, vines pruned into basket-shaped “kouloures,” and age-old tradition all conspire to mold an unsurpassed environment that has generously bestowed unique traits and features on Assyrtiko, Aidani, and on small quantities of other native white cultivars that, with Athiri in the lead, yield Santorini’s unparalleled wines.
A young Vinsanto possesses a golden orange color and fruity character reminiscent of quinces, braised figs, dates, and ripe yellow fruit, touched with honey and caramel. On the other hand, once it has become a “venerably old nectar,” it is as dark as mahogany and possesses intense underlying aromas replete with coffee, dried fruit, molasses, and incense. In either case, a Vinsanto is in proud possession of the key features that testify to its distinguished breed and the outstanding terroir of its origin: astonishing concentration; mineral character; and a tenacious acidity that easily balances out over 40 oz/gal of unfermented sugars!
Desserts based on caramel, fig, dried nuts, coffee, or quinces are the best companions Vinsanto wines. However, the class and strength of a Vinsanto allow for even bolder serving combinations such as with sharply salty cheeses like kopanisti or Roquefort as well as for the companionship offered by an epicurean, premium cigar.
Whatever the pairing choice may be when deciding to enjoy these rare and highly acclaimed wines, one thing is for certain: an exciting, novel wine experience beckons. Vinsanto does not merely usher one to an appreciation of fine wine; it also excites the senses with its taste, its legend, and the singularity of its birthplace, the inimitable Santorini.