Sunday, July 7, 2013

Santorini; Assyrtiko's Heavenly Home

View from the Esperas Hotel, Oia

Recently I was fortunate enough to be awarded a trip to Greece (thanks to the Court of Master Sommeliers). Our first stop was two days on the island of Santorini. We stayed in the small town of Oia at the Esperas Hotel,  perched on a cliff with unrivaled views of the Agean Sea. I am still dreaming of this heavenly, breathtaking island!

While on Santorini I explored the unique wine making techniques for Assyrtiko, the island's darling white wine varietal. Due to the island's severe Meltimi winds the Assyrtiko vines are trained into a "bird's nest" or "basket shape" known as Stefani training. This technique protects the grapes not only from the scorching sun, the wind but also from the chance of being pelted with the native volcanic rock and sandy soil.

Mr. Paris Sigalas of Domaine Sigalas exposing the underbelly of Stefani trained Assyrtiko vines

Although grown in other areas in Greece, Assyrtiko from Santorini is my favorite. Especially in Santorini... it's a racy, brisk white wine brimming with mineralty with just a hint of salinity. Yiannis Paraskevopoulos, founder and winemaker for Gaia Wines has said about Assyrtiko; " It's a white wine you should propose as a red." After many meals in Santorini myself I agree with Yiannis, Assyrtiko from Santorini has the body and acidity to stand up to red meats (lamb!) just as well as it's ability to pair magically with white and shell fish. Cheers to that or as they say in Greece...Yamas!

Freshly caught Seabring at the Sunset Taverna in Oia

Although many of these wines are not available in the States yet...hold tight! I foresee Greek wines, especially Assyrtiko from Santorini as a rising star in the American market for it's beauty, versatility and honest tariff.

From my travels here are my favorite Assyrtikos/Producers from Santorini. Should you see them, do yourself a favor and give them a try:

Domaine Sigalas: A classic and mouthwatering Assyrtiko, bring on the oysters!
Gaia: Yiannis' Wild Ferment Assyrtiko was one of my absolute favorite wines of the trip...complexity astounds!
Hatzidakis : Masterful wines with impressive age-ability!


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