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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Greece's Great White

The exquisite island of Santorini is a 45 minute flight from Athens…but it’s a world away in many respects.   While Athens is traffic-clogged, smog-ridden and politically chaotic, Santorini is the antithesis.  If you’ve seen a travel poster or magazine cover with a dazzling photo of a Greek island, chances are it is Santorini.   This little piece of paradise offers mind-boggling vistas of bright blue skies against a jaw-dropping backdrop of white-washed hilltop villages and crystal clear seas.  The only chaos a traveler to Santorini is likely to encounter will be trying to decide which of the island’s superb white wines to order with dinner.

Approximately 3,600 years ago one of the largest volcanic eruptions ever recorded took place in this area and what remains is the island of Santorini.  The island’s rich, volcanic soil produces wonderful dry white wines chocked full of complexity.  Growing conditions are brutal as the island’s arid climate, high mountains and strong winds are particularly inhospitable to agriculture. Vines that survive produce powerful, well-structures wines.

The island’s darling grape variety is a white by the name of Assyrtiko (a SEER tee ko).   While Assyrtiko is grown in other parts of Greece, it is indigenous to Santorini.  It is here at its birthplace that the grape reaches rock-star status in the island’s well-drained, mineral-rich soil.  Santorini Assyrtiko is often referred to as a “white wine with a red wine's character” due to its solid acid structure and full-body.  Because of its acids, it is one of the few white wines than can age beautifully.   The robust acids also make for a perfect pairing with the island’s seafood driven cuisine.   Flavor-wise, Assyrtiko is bone dry and its profile is similar to Riesling---lemon, lime and mineral.

Most people associate the island of Santorini with unparalleled beauty and jet-setting hideaways.  Those in the know, however, understand that it produces a world-class white wine.  Coming on the private Greek yacht  with Wine-Knows this Fall?   After our week at sea, we’ll be staying on Santorini for 3 days and will be visiting the island’s top producers.



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