Ancient Greek Wine Ages Well



215px-ASSYRTIKOAssyrtiko wine is made from one of Greece’s finest versatile white grape varieties, indigenous to the island of Santorini. Santorini is a wine region located on the archipelago of Santorini in the southern Cyclades islands of the Aegean Sea. Although wine has been produced there since ancient times, when the region was known as Thíra, it was not until the Middle Ages that the wine of Santorini became famous under the influence of the Venetians.

The cultivation of vineyards in Santorini follows the island’s particularities of climate. Vine growers prune the vines in the shape of a basket, called kouloura, in order to protect the young grapes from the strong wind that blows sand from the lava on the island.

Assyrtiko grape clusters are large, with a transparent yellow-gold skin and juicy flesh. In the volcanic soil of Santorini, which was devastated by a volcanic eruption in 1650 BC, there appear to be some unique characteristics that develop in the grape variety, and therefore in wine. One of these characteristics is that Assyrtiko does not lose its acidity even when it is very ripe. Assyrtiko has both high alcohol and high acidity, a trait uncommon for whites from the Mediterranean.

The Assyrtiko adapts well to different soil types and was planted throughout Greece including Macedonia and Attica, where it expresses a milder and more fruity character. Wines from Santorini are very robust and earthy, while Assyrtiko from other parts in Greece are more perfumed and floral. Assyrtiko can also be used together with the aromatic Aidani and Athiri grapes for the production of the unique, naturally sweet wines called Vinsanto (wine from Santorini), well known since Byzantine times.

Assyrtiko goes great with grilled lamb as well as with fresh fish. The most famous wineries that produce Assyrtiko in Santorini are Hatzidakis Winery, Domaine Sigalas and Gaia Wines.

Assyrtiko is also known as Arcytico, Assirtico, Assyrtico, Asurtico, and Asyrtiko.