I had a chance to grab a couple of sips from these two very fine wineries.
The best dry wines from Santorini to me are white and 100% Assyrtiko. Because there is no rain (the humidity nourishes the vines), this very particular grape requires special training in low nests to survive and thrive. A fascinating sight.
The other great wine is a dessert wine called Vinsanto that is made of a high proportion of Assyrtiko and some Aidani. The grapes are ripened and then allowed to lie on mats in the sun for 10 days.
They are then gently pressed. The wine has a deep golden to light brown color. They age very well. Usually they are about 9% alcohol and have incredible residual sugar as well as excellent acidity.
2008 Sigalas Assyrtiko
A light color. The nose is floral and shows lots of tropical fruit. The palate is crisp and shows a salinity that reminds me of Muscadet in many ways.
This is excellent!
2008 Sigalas Assyrtiko Barrel Fermented
Here the oak takes over the beautiful floral nose and dominates. There is a crispness here and a very satisfying finish. I just don’t like this grape oaked with younger oak even though it is French. Personal preference.
2003 Sigalas Vinsanto
An incredible nose. Orange peel. Honey spice. Dense floral notes. The palate is like Essensia. Lower alcohol. Very rich with orange peel and apricot fruit but has a nervy core of acidity that keeps it from being too heavy and cloying. Incredible stuff. I think I paid 23 euro and well worth it. Wow!
2006 Boutari Kallisti Reserve (Assyrtiko)
Darker color. The nose is dominated by oak spice. The palate is rich in the mouth but only contains oaky notes to me. I didn’t really love this.
2008 Boutari Santorini (Assyrtiko)
This is very light. Floral nose but deep with salinity. The palate is thin on fruit and finishes refreshing. A good quaffing wine with shellfish.
2007 Boutari “Nychteri” (Assyrtiko)
This is harvested at night and quite ripe. Put in 5 year old oak. Here the vibrancy and floral notes of the Assyrtiko are retained. The wine is complex in the mouth with lots of spice and tropical fruit. There is a real vibrancy here. The oaking is extremely well done. This is terrific.
2004 Boutari Vinsanto
Darker nose than the Sigalas. Here there is more honey spice along with orange peel. The palate is lighter. There is very good acidity here. Good length. I liked this quite a bit.
Some great wines with grilled shellfish or octopus.
Glad some of these come to the USA.
Count me in as another recent convert to the Assyrtico fan club!
By coincidence, I was served two Santorini Assyrticos blindly over the past month, one dry, one sweet, and both terrific:
2008 “Thalassitis” - Gaia Estate (Episkopi Vineyard) At first I guessed this might be a Gruner Veltliner from the crispness and faintly mineral notes. But with air, and as it warmed up, this became much more complex. It vaguely reminded me of a fine Savennieres with a little age. I wasn’t taking notes, but I remember layers of flavors emerging. At about $22 at Astor here in NYC, it’s by far the best complexity and quality for the money I’ve come across in a dry white in a long time – a wine that demanded my attention for 30 or 40 minutes as it opened up.
2000 Boutari Vinsanto Fairly dark color. There was a faint shoe polish scent (VA?) at first, then some pine. In the mouth, this was very layered, with prune notes and spice, a bracing acidity and even some astringency. I scored it 89, but that doesn’t convey the pleasure it gave. I ran to Trader Joe’s, where the friend had bought this, but it was long gone.
We just returned from 3 weeks in the Greek Islands and tasted a whole bunch of wines. Our favorites were SIgalas and Gaia Thalassitis, by far. We drank 3+ cases between those two estates. My wife preferred the Sigalas Barrel (6 months in oak), I preferred the non-oaked Sigalas for its superior crispness. Thaassitis was a hair behind in our preference, but not by much.
Every evening around 9, we would walk to a local harbor and eat something caught that day, accompanied by mezzes and Assyrtiko from Gaia or Sigalas. Every taverna at each harbor had slightly different fish and we chose our taverna for the evening base on the fish we wanted to eat. As good as the wines taste on their own, they are a perfect match for the cuisine. Perfect. Assyrtiko even stands up to and complements tomatoes, bell peppers and feta… These wines cost +/- 30 euros in the tavernas (the Sigalas Barrel is a few euros more). The sauvignon blancs from Crete can be pretty tasty, but Santorini Assyrtiko is the real deal. No one in So Cal carries either Gaia or Sigalas and I’m unwilling to ship in this weather, which is a shame, as they are great warm weather wines (which makes sense, as Santorini is definitely a warm weather place).
I’m not a huge Vin Santo fan, preferring to end our meals with Raki (Greek, not Turkish, which is anise flavored). Greek Raki is equivalent to grappa and I prefer it to the oxidized style of Vin Santo.
An aside: After tasting a pretty wide sample of wines, I consulted Mark Squires’ notes. They were spot on with our own views. I’ve tasted wine with Squires and he has a good palate. If one is able to set aside feelings about his board moderation, his Greece notes are worth a look.
3 weeks of beach, fresh fish, Greek vegetables, Assyrtiko, shorts, and canvas shoes. Simply spectacular. Highly recommended.
I couldn’t agree more! I spent a week on Santorini and loved the Assyrtiko, esp. with fresh seafood. Really loved the unoaked versions, too. Very fresh, pure. Agree about the salinity. Good call. And thanks for the notes.
I agree about the oaked Sigalas. My wife liked it, so we would drink it from time to time. I prefer the focus and minerality of the unoaked Sigalas. The oak was mildly intrusive and muted those elements in a negative way. Fortunately, the unoaked version was more commonplace. Happily for me, it was the pillow wine at the hotel we stayed at on Santorini and also available poolside by the glass (although my daytime beverage of choice was a mojito made with Havana Club rum).