more on Santorini.


The Gavalas family has been exclusively engaged in the vinification of the indigenous varieties grown in Santorini, since the end of the 19th century. Up until the 1920’s the family produced wines from grapes grown in their privately-owned vineyards and vinified them in their winery (canava) in Megalochori.

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cellar entrance.

This production was mainly distributed to customers throughout the island of Santorini as well as being exported to the city of Alexandria, in Egypt. Later on in the 1930’s they started shipping the wine to Athens and Piraeus. The shipping procedure could be well described as a feast. From Canaves, mule – drivers loaded the goat-skins, filled with wine on to their mules, and carried them to the port of Fira, where they were transferred into barrels of 600 kgs (called bombs, see feature picture).

Then the barrels were loaded on to small boats (caiques) and were shipped to Piraeus. After the end of the 2nd World War and for the following 30 years, most of the Brusco wine was sold to the Kaloyannis distillery, where it was distilled into brandy and a lesser quantity was supplied to the Koniordos family and a number of taverns.

In contrast, the Vinsanto wine was obtained by the churches and monasteries for Sacramental use. In 1973 the Gavalas family established its own wine store in Athens which handled exclusively the sales and distribution, throughout Greece, of the main wines of Santorini: Nyhteri, Katsano, Mezzo, Mandilaria and Vinsanto.

The winery.

At the beginning of the 1980’s, when the Boutaris company established its own winery in the island, the Gavalas family became the sole supplier of Vinsanto wine to Boutaris for a period of 6 years. For the first time in 1998 the Gavalas family bottled their own production of Vinsanto at their small, but modern winery (canava) in Megalochori.

Following the long-standing tradition and experience of three centuries, the Gavalas family has been carrying out the vinification of the island’s indigenous varieties aiming to introduce wines of superior quality and unique characteristics for the international market place.


sun-drying grapes.

Vinsanto is the mythical nectar of Santorini, produced from the native grape varieties of Assyrtiko, Athiri and Aidani. The soil of Santorini is characterised by unique geological inorganic elements created by the volcanic eruptions.

Due to the limited rainfall and the strong winds, the yield is very low with only 300-500 kgs of grapes per 1000 sq.m. of vineyards. The result is the production of grapes having excellent quality and perfect maturation. When the grapes reach the desired degree of maturation (14-15 Be) they are carefully picked and are sun-dried on terraces for approximately 10-15 days. The vinification is carried out using traditional techniques in the Gavalas winery, in Megalochori.

The pressing of the grapes always takes place in the early afternoon, so that the clusters of the grapes, are still warm and at their best for pressing. The small quantity of juice which is produced has a high content of sugar- 10 kgs of grapes produce 1kg of Vinsanto wine. The fermentation continues almost until Christmas. This wine fills the chalices of the orthodox churches and monasteries, (for Sacramental purposes). It can be best enjoyed chilled at 6o-8o C,as a dessert wine. Vinsanto is bottled in limited quantities.

winery iconPlease see HERE the Gavalas Winery website.

shopPlease check HERE for prices & retailers of Gavalas wines near you.

logo graperoverThe Gavalas wines tasted by GrapeRover: 

2011 Gavalas Katsano, PDO Santorini. 89 points.

Katsano_290_02white grapeclip85% katsano, 15% Gaidoura.

vmlRegional: swordfish souvlaki. World: sushi, crustaceans, shellfish, grilled fish, fish salads, snails, grilled pork, cream-cheeses.

Light green/golden. Medium viscosity. Upfront light aroma of unripe pear and green apple. Gently herbaceous. In the mouth, zippy flavors of gooseberry, goji (wolf)berry  and lime. Decent acidity. Appealing minerality. Leaving a clean, stony finish. The primary grape variety here is the indigenous Katsano (plus a little bit of Gaidouria) which used to be used to make raisins, but Giorgios Gavalas decided to make this intriguing wine with it. This is a unique wine, the only one in Greece /World!

2011 Gavalas Santorini, PDO Santorini. 90 points.

gavalas santoriniwhite grapeclip95% assyrtiko, 5% aidani.

vmlRegional: Crab kritharotto. World: lobster!  sushi, crustaceans, shellfish, grilled fish, fish salads, snails, grilled pork, cream-cheeses.

Pale gold. Light viscosity. Tempting zesty aromas of  lemon, pineapple and grapefruit. Very pleasing minerality combining well with zippy flavors. Long finish, clean and zingy. Crafty.

2010 Gavalas Niktiri, PDO Santorini. 91 points.

nikteri-500x500white grapeclip100% assyrtiko.

wine barrel6 months French oak.

vmlRegional: Lobster saganaki. World:  sushi, crustaceans, shellfish, grilled fish, fish salads, snails, grilled pork, cream-cheeses.

Bright yellow-gold. Medium viscosity. First impression on the nose is the chalky fruitiness of  gooseberry and lime. Traces of kumquat, honey and inspiring petrichor. On the midpalate, tarty tones of crisp lemon, together with mild tannins. lovely silky texture and nice acidity. An alluring wine for even the spoiled winelover.

2010 Gavalas Xenoloo, PDO Santorini, 88 points.

Xenoloo_290_021red grape clipMavrotragano, Voudomato and white grapeclipAthiri.

wine barrel12 month French oak (3/4 yrs old).

vmlRegional: Greek lamb-chops.  World: game, prime meat, vegetarian, spicy casseroles, pasta’s, olla podrida, rich cheeses.

Light ruby. Medium viscosity. Excellent nose of ripe cherry, granberry-jam, plum and herbs. On the palate a vivid dark fruit acidity,  supported by soft bitter oak tones.  Invigorating. This wine has 5% Athiri, a white variety. This blend was developed by the owner’s father. Mavrotragano means “black crunchy.” Voudomato means “eye of the bull” and it is a somewhat rare, red fleshed grape.

2005 Gavalas Vinsanto, PDO Santorini, 92 points.

vinsantowhite grapeclip80% Assyrtiko, 10% Athiri and 10% Aidani.

wine barrel72 months old French oak.

vmlRegional: Lemon-Mastiha Tiramisu. World: tropical fruit, icecream, fruitcakes, foie-gras, blue vein cheeses.

Dark amber. Dense viscosity. Rich, luscious fragrances of leather, honey toasted nuts and orange rinds. On the palate fulfilling flavors of mocha, cream, dried fruits and caramel. The finish is rich in raisins with a hint of tannin. Surprisingly only moderately sweet with a well developed acidity.