Assyrtiko does not at all have the usual profile of other hot climate varieties. It produces a dry white wine of distinctive character and great minerality, pleasant to drink young, but also very ageworthy. Most wines are unoaked, though some very good examples of oaked Assyrtiko are made and boast the same great ageing potential.
Very old vines, along with poor soils, hydric stress and strong winds, explain the extremely low yields of Assyrtiko as well as the dense structure and the opulency of its wines. Harvest is one of the two –hardly three– earliest in the country and usually starts at the beginning or in the middle of August.
This rare, ancient grape, Assyrtiko produces a world class wine that invites you to discover the unique volcanic terroir of Santorini.
Santorini’s unique eco-system
The summer heat is made bearable by strong winds and cool sea breezes. This island in the middle of the Aegean sea is buffeted by winds from every direction which can pose a real threat to the vines. They are a threat to the vines not only because they bring the salt from the sea air and the sand from as far away as the North-African coast, but primarily because of their sheer strength. They have been known to blow down trellised vineyards in a matter of minutes. However, the dominant wind—known as Meltemi, a real danger to sailors—is actually quite beneficial for the vine. This cool wind blows from the north mostly during the growing season. The Meltemi is an integral part of Santorini’s unique ecosystem, helping to lower temperatures and allowing for slower ripening of the grapes.
The winds are also very beneficial in keeping typical vineyard scourges at bay. The constant circulation of air wards off rot and disease – keeping the vines healthy and protected. As a result, the winds, in combination with the low rainfall and volcanic soils, contribute to Santorini’s unique ecosystem.
The extremely low yields of Assyrtiko high quality wines are a natural result of the old vines, the volcanic soils, the hydric stress and the strong winds of Santorini’s unique ecosystem. They all contribute to the concentration and the richness of its wines. Indeed, the law allows yields of up to 55 hl/ha, but these are rarely, if ever, reached. An abundant harvest could turn in close to 40 hl/ha, but normal yields are closer to 20 hl/ha, often even dipping below 10 hl/ha.