|The wonder of wine|
Making wine is a very old tradition in Santorini. There is a lot of sun here (grapes like sun) but not much water (vines need water) so yields are quite low, meaning it was always going to be a bit of a cottage industry. Very little of Santorini’s wine is exported, and although some goes to the US and Italy, none goes to the UK. So, if you want to drink Santorini wine it at home you must buy it here, wrap it in your beach towel, and monkey with your suitcase’s weight limit as you will not find a bottle in Tesco upon your return.
Santorini is known in particular for its white wines and the volcanic soil gives the dry wine quite a specific flinty, clean taste. In particular, it is famous for its sweet dessert wine Vinsanto. If you are clued up at all about wine you will know that most wines in the New World come from grafts of vines originally from Europe. Greece by contrast has its own original grape varieties which you will not find anywhere else in the world – varieties like Asyritico, Aidayi, Athiri, Mandilaria and Mavrathiro. Great names. The vines here have never been infected with the deadly Philoxera fungus which has devastated many vineyards worldwide. We sampled most of the Greek grape varieties on our tour of the island’s wineries in our hired Fiat 500 soft top – a triumph of style over engineering if ever there was one.
There are 13 wineries in Santorini but it was an over ambitious plan of mine to visit them all, as you get a bit squiffy after the first few multiple tastings and those mountain roads are notoriously windy with only an intermittent flirtation with safety barriers.
We called in to visit Antonis Argiros at his art space winery/art gallery. His family has been making wine there since the 50’s and he only recently went over to modern technological methods.
|The best wine in the world!|
His explanatory dialogue of the history of his wine making business was, I think, meant to be English but was spoken at such speed and with such a pronounced Greek accent that it was more a kind of Grenglish really. We got the gist of things however, and it was clear that he was very proud if his August Reserve, which he announced as ‘probably the best wine in the world!’ His cat, Yamos, was less impressed however as he had not been fed yet and followed us round protesting loudly at the injustice. I think he had heard all the spiel before..
|Where’s my dinner?|
Next we called in to the wine museum at Volcan wines where a little themed attraction illustrated with dodgy home made dummies – all of whom looked a bit like bonfire night Guys – explained the various processes involved. There were lots of old wine presses on display of different designs crafted by the skilled carpenters of Santorini. Wine was traditionally made by stamping on the grapes in bare feet and this harvest was the only time the women were allowed out of their domestic sphere to join in the activity, giving them the chance to maybe spot the boy from the village they would later marry. It was a kind of very early and incredibly limited Match.com. Wine was kept in animal skins and bottling was only introduce in the 1970’s here.
Vinsanto is made from grapes that have been previously dried in the sun for two weeks and then further soaked and fermented. It is a very sweet dessert wine that tastes like fat raisins in a glass and goes very well with chocolate apparently.
|It’s a ding dong of a view|
Next stop was Oia. We went there next because the roads in Santorini are very poorly sign posted and that was the one we ended up on, curling up the hill into the blue glass sky. It is a picture perfect village, clinging to the cliff. The little white houses and boutique hotels are layered into the sheer rock face.
|Donkey taxi required|
The tiny rooms and cobbled streets and mini swimming pools are more than made up for by the biggest bluest view you can imagine. Angelina Jolie and Catherine Zeta Jones have both enjoyed the charms of Oia as have thousands of Japanese tourists decanting themselves daily from the large cruise liners in the bay. Indeed it has become a bit of an industry for the Japanese to get married here and to prance about taking pictures of themselves in wedding dresses of the floaty bohemian variety.
We even saw a photo shoot of some particularly gorgeous dresses being modelled by some Japanese girls, which I can imagine will be going back to Tokyo in some sort of brochure/website and inspiring more Japanese to come here for that romantic occasion. They are doing battle with tropical storm Vonfong over in Japan at the moment so I can see why they are over here eating souvlaki and enjoying the cloudless Typhoon free weather.
|Beautiful church in Oia|