Whether red or white, still or sparkling, if you’ve ever sampled the wines of Santorini, you’ll immediately discover they possess a wonderfully expressive and complex character. But what makes the wines of Santorini so unique? The answer lies partly in the soil. Santorini is a volcanic island, and this creates favourable conditions for the cultivation of Athiri, Aidani, Assyrtiko, Mavrotragano, and Mandilaria, the main grape varieties of Greece’s most famous island.
Successive volcanic eruptions throughout the millennia formed a uniquely textured soil consisting of layers of volcanic ashes, pumice stone, sand, and basalt. This soil inherently has little, if any, organic material, and contains high levels of essential minerals which result in naturally low pH levels in the wine. Put more simply, the acidic soils help grapes to preserve acidity which is essential for crafting harmonious wines in Santorini’s Mediterranean climate.
The presence of these special minerals and the lack of clay in Santorini’s soils give rise to grapes bearing a distinctive flavour profile and provides a natural shield from diseases. The low-yielding vines of Santorini are a rarity in the wine world because they are planted in the soil with their own rootstocks whereas the majority of vines across the world are grafted. This is thanks to the fact that Santorini’s volcanic soil is inhospitable to the phylloxera louse which decimated vines in nearly every other winemaking region around the globe. As a result, some vines on Santorini are well over a hundred years old.