Top five Santorini wineries to visit

Age-old techniques are producing distinctive wines from its resilient grapes on this much-admired Greek island. Adrian Mourbys picks his five top Santorini wineries to visit...

Estate Argyros

After 100 years of trading from an old canava in Episkopi Gonia, Argyros built a modern winery with an architecturally striking visitor centre. Out in the dusty fields there are vines that date back to the 1850s, some of the oldest on the island. The fourth generation of the family now produces three Assyrtikos, an Aidani, a full-bodied red from the Mavrotragano grape and three Vinsantos.

  • Tastings: start at €15 (£12.90)
  • To buy: Estate Argyros, Assyrtiko, Santorini 2016 or the entry-level Atlantis line.

Gaia

Gaia produces 130,000 bottles a year of white wines on Santorini, while its reds come from secondary vineyards in the Peloponnese. In 1994, the company set up this winery on the seashore, just five minutes from Santorini’s airport. It’s an idyllic setting, a former nightclub on the black sand beach. Visitors can taste both sets of wines (red and white) on a beach-bum terrace under tamarisk trees as five friendly cats prowl around. In 2009, Gaia began ageing some of its Thalassitis white wine under the sea in front of the winery. They deem the 2014 vintage a great success.

  • Tastings: from €8 (£6.90)
  • To buy: Gaia, Wild Ferment Assyrtiko, Santorini 2018.

See also: Santorini travel guide for wine lovers


J Boutari & Son

Despite its striking white-domed cultural centre sitting amid the vines, the rest of Boutari is very much a working winery. Below the canteen-style visitor centre are cellars of French oak barrels, reserve wines dating back to 2007 and stainless steel tanks. The guide will tell you that Boutari introduced stainless steel to Santorini when it opened this outpost on the island in 1988.

  • Tastings: from €12 (£10.35)
  • To buy: Petros Vamvakousis suggests Boutari Santorini (€18.85), which is 100% Assyrtiko but is a gentler version than many. The Ampeliastos (500ml, €28) is a beautifully sweet wine from sun-dried red Mandilaria grapes aged 10 years in French oak barrels.

Vassaltis

Yannis Valambous set up Santorini’s newest winery on low-lying ground outside the village of Vourvoulus. Above it he built a calm, sleek visitor centre. A former financier in London, Valambous decided to create only quality wines on the basis that his winery would never be big enough to produce cheaply. The first wines from Vassaltis were released in 2015 and since then he has produced not just the usual Santorini Assyrtiko, but also an Aidani and Nassitis, a blended white made with Aidani, Athiri and Assyrtiko.

  • Tastings: start at €14 (£12.05)
  • To buy: Greece’s first Petillant Naturel (€18.50), which Vassaltis makes with 70% Assyrtiko: ‘a funky wine that is not pretending to be Champagne’.

Venetsanos

The winery with the most dramatic location on Santorini was built into a cliff in 1947. In a time before available electricity, engineer Giorgos Venetsanos had the brilliantly simple idea of using gravity to process grapes down through three floors until they emerged as wine that could be piped to the harbour 230m below for export. Closed in 1979 and then reopened in 2014, Venetsanos has turned this unique building into its visitor centre, while the wine is made in a new facility nearby. Tastings are held on a rocky terrace with the stunning caldera below.

  • Tastings: from €15 (£12.90)
  • To buy: Anagallis, a new rosé from Venetsanos (€20).

Formerly an award-winning BBC drama producer, Adrian Mourby has published several novels and also works as a journalist, mainly in the fields of opera and travel. This appears in the Santorini wine feature in the July 2019 issue of Decanter.