Sampling the wine routes of Santorini
When it comes to Old World wines, Santorini makes a special case for attention. Wine-making can be traced here to before the eruption of its legendary volcano, more than 3,000 years ago. So when you set out to explore the island’s wineries and vineyards, you do so in the knowledge that its viticulture roots run very deep.
Deeper even than the time of the phylloxera insect that decimated European vine roots in the late 19th century, but didn’t affect Santorini’s vines because they were protected by the volcanic soil.
More than 50 grape varieties grow here – most famously Assyrtiko (producing the crisp whites that have propelled Santorini to wine-producing renown and attracted multiple awards). And you’ll enjoy getting to know the PDO-awarded sweet dessert wine Vinsanto, made with sun-dried grapes and served as a liqueur.
Amphorae and wine-making equipment have been found at the Prehistoric settlement of Akrotiri but, beyond grape varieties and history, the story of Santorini’s wineries is about the characters who run them and their traditions.
The pruning system that curls vines into kouloures (baskets), protecting them from winds and intense sunlight and allowing them to absorb more water, is characteristic of many vineyards. And subterranean arched cellars, known as kanaves, are part of the architecture of many wineries.
From the wineries and cellars to wine-tasting accompanied by local cheese and cold cuts, this is where Santorini has chosen to bottle much of its authenticity. So much so that when you’re home and pop the cork on one of the bottles you’ve brought back with you, you’ll be taken right back to the vines and the people who produced them.
There are 19 wineries in Santorini and most can be visited, either individually or as part of a tour. Here are some suggestions:
Switch the whitewashed elegance of cosmopolitan Oia with the greenery and authenticity of a vineyard in just a few kilometres. Just a short drive away is Domaine Sigalas.
What more incredible backdrop could there be to a winery than the Caldera? The vineyards here are grown in terraces around Megalochori and Pyrgos Kallistis. You can choose between SantoWines (a cooperative of more than 1,200 members) and Venatsanos Winery, both with wonderful caldera views. In Megalochori, there is Gavalas Winery and (a little outside the village) Boutaris Winery. And further up the west coast, on the outskirts of Thera, you’ll find Avantis Estate.
If it’s an authentic village setting you’re after, then head to the inland settlements. You’ll find the Argyros Estate, Canava Roussos and Volcanic Slopes winery, along with the Art Space Winery, in and around Episkopi Gonia (Mesa Gonia) and Artemis Karamolegos Winery just down the road, outside neighbouring Exo Gonia village. In Vathonas, the Koutsoyannopoulos Winery & Wine Museum is built in a cave 8m below ground, with a labyrinth of tunnels reaching 300m, in which you will find scenes depicting viniculture techniques from the 17th century. Close to Pyros, you will find the Hatzidakis Winery. And finally, a little outside the village of Vourvoulos (to the north), is the Vassaltis Winery.
If you fancy combining a visit to a winery with a swim, Gaia Wines is on Santorini’s east coast, midway between Kamari and Monolithos, right by the beach.
- Domaine Sigalas is 2km (10mins by car and 35mins by foot) from the centre of Oia.
- Santo Wines, Venetsanos, Boutaris and Gavalas wineries are within 3.7km of each other and 15-19km (25-32mins) from Oia. Avantis Winery is 12.5km (20mins) from Oia and 5.1km (10mins) from Santo Wines (the first of the cluster of other caldera wineries).
- Koutsoyannopoulos Winery & Wine Museum, Argyros Estate, Volcanic Slopes, Canava Roussos and Art Space Winery are within 2.1km of each other and 17-19km (22-26mins) from Oia, 5-6km (10-13mins) from Thera and 2-3km (5mins) from Kamari. Artemis Karamolegos Winery is 600m from Canava Roussos.
- Vassaltis Vineyards is 10.7km (16mins) from Oia and 4.6km (8mins) from Thera.
- Hatzidakis Winery is 18.4km (34mins) from Oia, 7km (15mins) from Thera and 7km (15mins) from Kamari.
- Gaia Wines is 2km (5mins) from Kamari, 9km (15mins) from Thera and 20km (30mins) from Oia.
If you are not on an organised tour, please remember that driving after the consumption of alcohol is extremely dangerous.
The distance between many wineries is walkable.
Santorini is also covered by an extensive public bus services.
- Most wineries on Santorini are open from April-October and many can be visited all year round, but be sure to contact them by telephone first.
- In April-May, grapes begin to come through on the vines and vineyards are at their most atmospheric.
The harvest period is from August to the beginning of September.
- You can visit a single winery in 1-2 hours.
- If you join an organised tour and visit 2-3 wineries, you will need 3-5hrs.
- Why not visit a number of wineries over your holiday, getting a taste for the different landscapes and styles of those found along the caldera and in the villages.