Tag: Greek wines

Santorini Winemaking: My Top 5 Wineries to Visit


Do you want to know which Santorini winery to visit? This is your guide to the best Santorini wineries! Santorini is famous for its caldera views, whitewashed houses, blue domes, and beaches, but did you know that Santorini is also one of the top wine destinations in Greece? Santorini wines, famous for the grape Assyrtiko, have been compared to some of the world’s most expensive wines. The unique volcanic soils and grape-growing methods make wine tasting in Santorini an absolute must. When visiting Santorini, make sure to visit at least a few wineries, but since there are over 20 wineries on the island, making a choice can be difficult. Make sure to keep reading until the end to find out which ones to go to.


Sunset on Santorini Island (click here for better quality in a new tab)

A brief history lesson about wine in Santorini

Around 3000 BC, the first inhabitants of Santorini arrived on the island, where they soon began growing vines and producing wine.

The vineyards of the area were destroyed in 1640 BC by a volcanic eruption that covered the island in a thick layer of lava. After about 250 years, in 1200 BC, a new soil was formed, and inhabitants soon discovered that grape vines were one of the few plants that could thrive in these conditions.

During the 19th century, an insect known as phylloxera made an appearance and destroyed nearly every vineyard in Europe. Surprisingly, Santorini’s vineyards remained untouched. The reason for this was that Santorini’s soil consists mostly of lava, pumice, and volcanic ash, in which the insect couldn’t survive.


Santorini has a distinct terroir that cannot be replicated or found elsewhere in the world. The relatively warm winters, with temperatures ranging from 8 to 10 degrees Celsius, are followed by warm, windy, and dry summers. The Aegean Sea acts as a “climatic buffer,” softening climates.

During the hot summer, the only source of water is the nocturnal fog that covers the island.

As previously stated, the soil is primarily composed of lava, pumice, and volcanic ash. Therefore, it is deficient in organic matter.

Kouloura Vine Training, Santorini Island

The island is also very windy, and trellised vineyards can be destroyed in a matter of minutes due to the strength of the winds. The only way for grapes to survive direct sun exposure and strong winds is to be protected by low-basket-shaped vines. This is the traditional “kouloura” training system.


“Assyrtiko is the main grape variety on the island, accounting for roughly 80% of total grape production”

Santorini is best known for its indigenous white grape varieties, Assyrtiko, Athiri, and Aidani, though there are some wines made from international varieties as well as indigenous red grapes such as Mandilaria and Mavrotragano.

Assyrtiko is the main grape variety on the island, accounting for roughly 80% of total grape production. It is a multi-dynamic variety that adapts well to various bioclimatic conditions. As a result, its cultivation has spread almost throughout Greece. Within the Santorini ecosystem, the assyrtiko variety develops a distinct expression, yielding wines with metallic character, a full body, and a high alcohol content, while still maintaining high acidity and freshness.

The PDO Santorini, which was established in 1971, only includes dry white wines made from Assyrtiko (at least 75% of the blend), Aidani, and Athiri, and sweet wines made from sun-dried grapes that are made from Assyrtiko (at least 51%) and Aidani (a small quantity of other native white grape varieties is allowed).

Also worth noting, are the dry wines labeled “Nychteri,” which require ultra-mature grapes and wines with a high alcohol content (a minimum of 13.5% ABV) that have been aged in oak barrels for at least three months. Its name, “Nychteri,” is derived from the Greek word “Nychta,” which means “night.” In the past, grapes were harvested during the day and pressed at night to take advantage of the lower temperatures.

Food Pairings with Assyrtiko

“keep in mind that the wine does not pair well with sushi”

Assyrtiko is one of the wines that proves the saying “what grows together, goes together,” as it pairs with almost anything from the sea, such as sardines, grilled fish, fried calamari, and grilled octopus with olive oil and lemon. Oysters and lobster go perfectly with Santorini Assyrtiko. For non fish-based dishes, you can pair it with a Greek salad, feta cheese, “lemonato” chicken with potatoes, or even roasted lamb with lemon. However, if you ever visit one of the many restaurants or wine bars on the island that serve sushi, keep in mind that the wine does not pair well with sushi and will leave you with a taste similar to aluminum foil. Assyrtiko is simply too delicate for sushi.

Santorini wineries you should visit

Gaia wines

Gaia Wines is well-known in both Nemea and Santorini. The winery is located on the island’s east coast, at Vrachies of Exo Gonia, between Kamari and Monolithos, by the sea and close to the airport. It is open to wine lovers from mid-April to October. Gaia Wines has transformed a stone-built industrial building that was once used to produce tomato paste and sun-dried tomatoes at the turn of the century into a modern winery.

Wine Tasting at Gaia Wines winery, Santorini Island

The winery visit includes a tasting of the entire range of Santorini and Nemea wines as well as a tour of the winery.

If you visit Gaia wines, make sure to try and ask everything about their “Thalassitis Submerged”, a wine made from 100% Assyrtiko that stays for 5 years submerged into the Agean sea.

Argyros Estate

Argyros Estate vineyards, Santorini Island, Greece

Argyros Estate was established in 1903, but the Argyros family has had a long history in winemaking, producing wines for decades before opening their own winery. The estate is the largest private owner of vineyards in Santorini, with a current landholding exceeding 120 ha. The knowledgeable and expertly trained Estate Argyros staff can provide a memorable visit through a carefully structured range of options that cater to various needs. People looking for a quick stopover or a longer stay, casual wine drinkers or wine connoisseurs, will all find something to their liking, much to learn and much to enjoy. All Estate Argyros wine tours include time spent in the vineyards and on the winery’s production side, followed by a tutored tasting of world-class Estate Argyros wines, including the famous Vinsanto, paired with artisanal cheeses and cold cuts.

Hatzidakis Winery

Wine tasting in Hatzidakis Winery’s wine cellar

In 1997, Haridimos Hatzidakis and Konstantina Chryssou founded the Hatzidakis Winery. Konstantina first showed Haridimos her family’s neglected vineyard at an altitude of 330 meters in the village of Pyrgos Kallistis. The vineyard had not been cultivated since 1956, creating an excellent opportunity for organic farming. It was Santorini’s first organically grown vineyard, and it was DIO certified.

The winery continues to produce quality wines in limited quantities, always aiming for the expression of the island’s terroir through Santorini’s indigenous grape varieties and fermenting only with indigenous yeasts. These wines are made by young people who adhere to the Hatzidakis family’s philosophy. Their production is made for people who appreciate high-quality Santorini wines.

Hatzidakis Winery; barrel of Vin Santo

The winery offers guided tours that typically begin in the area of the winery where you find the stainless steel tanks and end in the barrel cave, where Vinsanto has been aged for over 14 years! Each wine is presented in detail during the wine tasting. All the visitors, no matter if they know about wine or not, have the opportunity to learn about Santorini’s grape varieties, wines, vineyards, and microclimate, as well as the organic farming that is practiced.

Artemis Karamolegos Winery

PDO Santorini, Pyritis from Artemis Karamolego Winery

When Artemis Karamolegos invested in the production facility and privately owned vineyards in 2004, Artemis Karamolegos Winery made a dynamic entry into contemporary winemaking, producing, for the first time, protected designation of origin (PDO) wines. The winery proudly continues the family’s winemaking tradition on the Greek island of Santorini. The winery’s sommeliers will take you on a journey through the volcanic tastes and aromas of Santorinian wines in the specially designed wine tasting area. The staff of the winery have created a series of “interactive” wine tasting experiences, as well as food pairings that enhance the experience. The Karamolegos winemaking philosophy, combined with a presentation of each label, transforms the wine tasting into a priceless and unforgettable experience.

Venetsanos Winery

View on the Caldera from Venetsanos Winery

Venetsanos Winery is located directly above the port of Athinios, overlooking Santorini’s magnificent caldera. The Venetsanos family built the winery in 1947, making it the island’s first industrial winery. Its most notable feature was the structural design, which relied heavily on gravity to maximize energy efficiency at a time when access to electricity and other energy sources was extremely limited. The winery was built in an unusual way, starting at the top and working its way down. Venetsanos Winery now manages 15 hectares of vineyards, the majority of which are planted with the Assyrtiko grape variety. Athiri, Aidani, Platani, Mavrotragano, and Mandilaria complete the puzzle of the other indigenous grape varieties available for research and development in the region. The winery offers 30-minute to hour-long guided tours and wine tastings for both experienced wine lovers and newcomers to the wine community.



Wine is a gourmet treasure, do not abuse alcohol!

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Everything you should know about the winemaking region of Nemea

In ancient times, the core of Nemea’s wine region was known as “the Land of Phliasia,” and its wine was popular with an “international” audience who traveled to the ancient Nemean Games, one of the most important spectacles in Greek history. Phliasion wines became known as Agiorgitiko over time. Today, Nemea is Greece’s largest PDO (Protected Denomination of Origin) wine production zone, and its lush grape cultivation demonstrates why Homer named it Ampelóessa, which means “full of vines.”



Gaia Wines Vineyards in Nemea

Nemea has a unique terroir, which distinguishes it from the other winemaking regions in the Peloponnese, where it is located. The vineyards are mostly found in the highlands, as the zone’s altitude ranges from 90 meters to roughly 1000 meters. Warm days and chilly nights work together to produce very good raw material throughout the ripening phase, which lasts from August to September. Nemean soil is made up of clay, stone, gravel, and sand. The soil’s unique composition holds all of the required moisture and feeds it to the plants.


For all those reasons mentioned above, combined with the extensive knowledge that winemakers in the region have, there are a lot of varieties grown in Nemea, both indigenous and international. Native Greek varieties include Asyrtiko, Malagousia, Kidonitsa, Malvasia, and Sklava.

“One variety, however, stands out the most and is the star of Nemea”

Kidonitsa is a unique and ancient Greek grape that was nearly extinct at one point. It was saved by several Peloponnese growers who recognized the grape’s exceptional potential to make aromatic white wines with a distinct character. Sklava is a rare and nearly extinct white-skinned grape variety grown in the eastern Peloponnese, particularly in Argolida, its birthplace, and Nemea. Sklava was traditionally blended with other grape varieties, but there are some examples of single-varietal Sklava wines made by producers attempting to revitalize the variety. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Gewurztraminer are some of the international varieties grown in Nemea.

Plantings of Agiorgitiko in Koutsi with a view on Mount Megali Rachi

One variety, however, stands out the most and is the star of Nemea. This variety is none other than Agiorgitiko (pronounced “eye-your-yee-tee-ko”). Agiorgitiko cultivations currently span approximately 2.5 hectares in Nemea. The Nemea PDO, created in 1971, is only for dry or sweet red wines made entirely of this variety.

The importance of Agiorgitiko

“known as a “versatile” variety because of its capacity to create a wide range of wines”

This charismatic variety is one of the noblest varieties in Greek vineyards and one of the richest colored varieties that we can find in the country. Differences in altitude, microclimate, and soil composition create different “expressions” of the variety.

Plantings of Agiorgitiko

Agiorgitiko is known as a “versatile” variety because of its capacity to create a wide range of wines, from fresh and rosé to powerful aged and dessert sweet. Agiorgitiko has an exquisite and highly fruity taste. It has medium to high acidity, silky tannins, and a medium body.

Young wines of the style have an intense purple color with purple highlights. On the nose, the aromas of red fruits stand out, such as cherries, sour cherries, plums, and raspberries, while their aftertaste is fruity.

Rosé Agiorgitiko can be found in colors ranging from pale to intense pink. It is delicate, with a wonderful fresh and cool character and the aromatic intensity of red fruits.

Aged Agiorgitiko is more complex. Ruby in color, with an exuberant body, aromas of red fruit jam, chocolate, sweet spices, tobacco, and wood with a long aftertaste stimulate the senses. Their tannins are, of course, prominent but at the same time soft.

The sweet wines of the variety are dominated by aromas of dried fruits, such as fig, plum, raisin, and caramel.

Food Pairings with Agiorgitiko

“An aged Nemea needs more exuberant sauces and meats”

Rosé wines can be combined very nicely with salads, pizza, pasta with light red sauces, or even with delicious vegetable pies.

A fresh Agiorgitiko highlights appetizers, meat or fish dishes with lighter sauces, and also spaghetti with minced meat.

An aged Nemea needs more exuberant sauces and meats like roast beef, sausages, traditional Greek moussaka, and even burgers.

Sweet wines from Agiorgitiko match with chocolate. A souffle (soufflé) with dark chocolate, a chocolate pie, a chocolate bar or chocolates with caramelized nuts create an explosive combination with sweet wine.


Nemean estates you should really know, visit and/or try

Gaia Wines

Notios Red

This winery was founded in 1994 on the south-western slopes of Koutsi, at an elevation of 650 meters, and has now become one of Nemea’s household names. Wines from Gaia are exported to 25 countries worldwide, ranging from Japan to the United States. Their production is guided by consistency and a commitment to quality. The steady increase in exports and the prizes that Gaia Wines has acquired demonstrate that this incredible journey best represents the aspirations and goals of the people at Gaia Wines, and it will continue to develop a thirst for new experiences and knowledge.

Semeli Estate

Nemea Grande Reserve

Semeli established their huge vineyard in 2003 at 600 meters above sea level in the village of Koutsi, just a short distance from Gaia. Their finest white, Thea, is aged on fine lees for a distinctive and almost Burgundian take on Moschofilero, earning winemaker Leonidas Nassiakos a gold medal at the 2017 Decanter World Wine Awards.

Palivou Estate

Organic Nemea by Ktima Palivou

George Palivos founded the winery in Ancient Nemea in 1995. The vineyards are predominantly planted with Agiorgitiko, with some Roditis, Malagousia, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah. It is worth noting that all of the grapes from Palivou Estate are farmed organically. Their vines are located in a range of altitude varying from 300m to 600m and cover a variety of soil types such as calcareous, clay, loam, sand, and gravel.

Domaine Nikolaou

Nemea 100% Agiorgitiko, Estate Nikolaou

Nikolaou Estate was formed in 1984, continuing a family heritage of winemaking that began in 1936. The mountain air and the dampness of the mythological river Asopos create a one-of-a-kind microclimate for the 14-acre organic vineyard. Winery Nikolaou’s organic vineyard is located in Douramani and covers an area of 0.11 km2. Its farming adheres strictly to organic agricultural standards, with the goal of preserving the winery’s distinctive microclimate as well as the ecosystem of the surrounding region.

Organic Vineyards Papaioannou

Thanasis Papaioannou, the founder of Organic Vineyards Papaioannou, was one of the first wine growers-producers in Greece to embrace and support the concept of true Greek terroirs and their wines, with regard for the environment and its balance. Thanasis Papaioannou has made sure to plant the optimum variety, native or international, depending on the particular mesoclimate, in their large, privately held vineyard in different regions of Nemea.


Oray Wine

Wine is a gourmet treasure, do not abuse alcohol!

None of this content has been sponsored

I did not receive any gifts or free samples that could be related to this article

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