A grape often called the “Chablis” of Greece and deservedly so. On many occasions, I have given a glass of this wine to a sceptical wine drinker who wouldn’t dream of drinking wine further away than France or Italy; and always succeeded in converting them. It brims with minerality and refreshing acidity, along with crisp citrus fruit. It ages fantastically, softening out and becoming a little more creamy.
And its birthplace is also one of the most beautiful tourist destinations in the world, the island of Santorini. When you see the looming vision of the coloured chalky cliffs that welcome you from a boat, it holds one of the secrets of this special place. The island was created from a volcanic eruption and the complex black soils where grapes grow, are supposedly one of the reasons for the fantastically mineral flavours.
Even more special, is the fact that the grapes grow in an unusual basked shape. Pruned inwards into circles looking like a crown of thorns, that then grow grapes to form bushy shapes. I once heard these called “bad hair days”. The vines can be hundreds of year old and on original roots which is extremely rare in the wine world. This means you get low yields and a lot of concentration; also explaining how these grapes produce wines with such distinction.
The only shame is that Santorini is such a tourist hot spot that many vineyards are being sold and built over with hotels. So this wine is becoming increasingly expensive and rare.
Very late budding and ripening. The basket shaped vines protect the berries from the fierce island winds, as does the naturally hard wood of the vine. The grape has very high tartaric acid, but not malic. Which for the ultimate wine geek means malolactic fermentation doesn’t necessary reduce the perception of the acidity that much. It also gives it the ability to age. However it does have a tendency to oxidise, so care is required in wine-making to protect it. At the premium level, many winemakers chose to oak the wine which gives it more body and a peppery richness. It can be blended with other local grapes called Athiri and Aidani; these wines are usually simply labelled Santorini white.
Semillon, Chardonnay (unoaked Chablis style), Furmint, Gruner Veltliner
Greece: Santorini, Nemea, Crete
Australia: Clare Valley
Taramasalata, grilled octopus, scallops, baked cod, tempura vegetables or fish, goats cheese salad or hard cheese