Contrary to all the misfortune Greece is undergoing, here is some positive news about one of it’s “lesser known” products: Greek Wine from the Islands. As part of a series of winetravels in Greece we start with Part 1. South Aegean. Wine & food journalist Cornelius Wesseling reports on his last winejourney to the Greek Islands, covering all major wineries on Mykonos, ParosSantorini,

Early May most of the locals of the Aegean are slowly waking up from their winter slumber to face a new tourist season; houses, restaurants and cafes are undergoing their annual whitewash, terrace furniture, boats and swimming pools are being repaired and fixed.

Some locals however are working “the year round” on the pride of the Greek wine industry: reintroducing some of the ancient grapevarieties that were part of the glory of Europe's first democracy.

Our first Island to visit: Mykonos  

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Although Mykonos is most famous for it’s charming tourist facilities, there is one interesting winemaker, Nikos Asymomytis, owner of the Ecological Vineyard of MykonosTogether with his cousin Georgos they make solid ecological wines from the Cycladic varieties Aidani, Athiri, Assyrtico and Mandilaria. Some Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon is used for blending. Since 2006 the well known winemaker Nicos Lazaridi took an interest in the company.


To taste these wines one has to make a trip to the Island itself, as the (so far) rather small production is usually consumed at the numerous Island’s bars, restaurants and hotels. During a lavish and cordial dinner with the cousins at the famous Niko’s Tavern, we had the crispy Paraportiano white, made from Assyrtico and Aidani, which went splendid with our fresh shellfish starter. The “Lamb Kleftico” was the perfect base for the Aegean Mykonos Red, 100% Mandilaria, oaky, spicy, rich texture with a lasting finish.

Our next destination: Paros

map_small parosSituated in the middle of the Cyclades, in the heart of the Aegean, accompanied by the beautiful Antiparos. The Island stands out for picturesqueness, it's calm nature with the countless country churches and Monasteries which are true marvels of Island architecture.

The main occupation of the inhabitants is tourism, followed by agriculture and fishery. Despite the rapid development of tourism, the vines, olive trees and grain constitute the main cultures on the island.

Unfortunately the wineries were unable to welcome us during our Island tour. Hopefully we will be able to pay them a visit in the near future…..

On the Island are two commercially operating wineries:

1.  The Paros Union,an organisation of 11 cooperatives, holding 1,300 registered farmers. Besides various quality wines they also produce typical Paros dairy products like cheeses and yoghurt.

coopr parosFounded in 1929, essentially starting the action in 1956 with the first privately owned winery. Since then and until today, the existence and action is closely linked with the history of vineyards on the island. An important stage in recent history is the establishment in 1956 of the first winery in Union Paros, recognition of Paros in 1981 as a production area wines Appellation of Origin of superior quality and construction of modern winery Union in 1987.

logo moraitis2. Moraitis Winery is located in Naoussa Paros by the Beach of Aghioi Anargyroi. It was Founded in 1910 by Manolis Moraitis. He cultvated vineyards his own, and while he gathered vinificated grapes from the whole Island.

The second generation with Theodoros Moraitis continued the vine growing and the wine making. In 1967 he did his first wine bottling and started a new era. In 1980 the third generation took over, represented by Manolis Moraitis jr who put his own mark in the Winery's Historical Course. He renovated and modernized the Winery, extended the vine growing, planted and cultivated Indigenous varieties. He struggles to save the historic vineyard of Paros from the Tourism Development. Traditional ways of the vine growing is combined with modern techniques of winemaking. Manolis Moraitis is married to Maria Sifnaiou in Paros and lives with their two sons. Their older son, Theodore, studied Oenology, with postgraduate studies in food and agriculture business management, while the younger son, Savvas, is a senior in the department of Economics in the University of Piraeus.Their vision is to continue the wine making tradition of their family in Paros.

Our next destination: Santorini

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Sailing the 120 km. from Paros to Santorini by the fast and comfortable Flying Cat 4 of Hellenic Seaways only takes about 2,5 hours. On arrival at the Athinios port Yiannis Valambous was there to welcome us. Yiannis is to become the youngest winery owner on this allready worldfamous Island. GrapeRover intends to report regularly on the development of this winery, so check our “Pickings” or subscribe to our Newsletter!

As a “Welcome to Santorini gesture”, Yiannis had booked a table at one of Santorini’s oldest taverns: “Metaxi Mas”(meaning “Between us”), at Exo Gonia in the center of the Island. Genuine dishes from Santorini & Crete are being served here in a relaxed and gentle atmosphere, a pleasant start of our 5-day stay on the Island. The wine list offers wines from most of Santorini’s wineries. An absolute highlight that evening was the Mavrotragano 2005 of Paris Sigalas, a fast rising star on the international wine firmament.

villa santorini

private villa Santorini.

Our accomodation for the next three nights felt literally as “heaven on earth”. Yianni’s sister Daphne runs the “Private Villa  Santorini” , situated at Imirovigli, at the top of the caldera’s rim.We truly felt like relatives of Dionysos during our stay here, not in the least because of the awesome hospitality of Daphne and her staff.

Another key-person to our Santorini experience was (and still is) Ilias Roussakis of “Wine in Santorini”. Being a qualified Viticultarist (Athens) and Oenologist (Bordeaux) Ilias proved to be of great value, informing us on the Santorini winescene and getting us in contact with key-persons. His dedication to the promising potential of Santorini’s wines is there for wine-professionals and wine-enthousiasts alike.


Kouloura (bird's nest) training.

“The unique soil of Santorini which sheltered the vineyards from the Phylloxera epidemic, resulted in Santorini being one of the few places in the world where old vines can be located, with the viticultural region being more than 3000 years old, with vines aged more than fifty years, a unique pruning method as well as individual ancient varieties. All these make the viticultural region of Santorini, a historical viticultural area, a viticultural museum. This region is one that yields unique wines, of exceptional qualities, which as they age, are living embodiments of the land of Santorini with all its eccentricities, this unique terroir, which is the Santorinian viticultural region.” (courtesy Sigalas).

The following days were filled with visits and tastings at:

Volcan Wines (Koutsoyannopoulos); one of the oldest winemakers of the Island (1870).entrance volcan wines

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Being the only one of its kind in Greece, the Koutsoyannopoulos Wine Museum occupies a natural cave. It is eight meters below ground, 300 meters long and has a labyrinth-like shape. The Koutsoyannopoulos Wine Museum presents the history of wine and the life of vine-growers in Santorini since the 1600s. It took twenty-one years of hard work, patience and perseverance to create the wine museum. This endeavour was funded entirely by our famil

Domaine Sigalas, Oia

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Please take some time( 7 minutes) to watch this video, created by Domaine Sigalas, then you will understand the uniqueness of Santorini wines….

The company was founded in 1991, under the name SIGALAS WINERY Ltd. The winery was initially located in the traditional canava (typical Santorini dwelling) of the Sigalas family. In 1998, a new production, bottling and aging facility was constructed, located in a privately owned area. Since then, and after continuous investment in modernization and expansion of the facilities, the company has a processing and bottling production capacity of 300,000 bottles annually.Sigalas winery

The wines are exported to Germany, France, Belgium, Austria, Holland, England, Cyprus, Switzerland, Hong-Kong, Shanghai, Sweden, Singapore, Australia, Brazil, USA and Canada.

Today, DOMAINE SIGALAS continues to implement its growth plan, based on the three principles on which it was created: a creative relationship with the traditions of the island of Santorini, technical savvy and quality.

Boutari Santorini

b outari santo

The Boutari Winery, with its distinctive white dome, first operated in 1989, and has played a leading role in the viticultural development of the island. Open to the public, it offers its visitors a complete guided tour. The Boutari Winery is filled with the magical aura of the island of Santorini and promises to be a thrilling experience!

On the most -unique island of the Cycladic Islands, Santorini, we find the Boutari Winery on the road to Faros, past Akrotiri. Evidence and testimonies of viticultural activities date back to the pre-historic phase of the island, before the great volcanic explosion around 1.500 BC. In the mid 1980s, the Boutari company began its active involvement with the vineyards of Santorini, one of few vineyards that has never been affected by phylloxera.

Argyros Estate

argyros labelAbout the Winery: Argyros Estate, founded in 1903 by George Argyros, was transformed by his grandson, Yiannis into one of the largest estates on Santorini, with vineyards totaling 30 hectares today. Now his son Mathew, the 4th generation of Argyros, has taken over management of the winery and continues the family’s long tradition in winemaking. Argyros Estate combines the ancient traditions of Santorini together with the latest in modern wine technology to produce some of the most highly awarded wines on the island. Their wines feature a wide variety of native grapes including, Assyrtiko, Athiri, Aidani, Mandilaria and Mavrotragano.

In 1950, Estate Argyros passed to Matthew Argyros, who not only continued his father’s business, but  expanded the family vineyard to 15 acres.
The person who changed significantly the image of the winery was the founder’s grandson Yiannis Argyros who runs the winery since 1974. Yiannis Argyros not only has increased the family vineyard to 65 acres but he worked hard to combine the family tradition with modern technology and to ensure the high quality of grapes.argyros wineryMatthew Argyros represents the 4th generation of winemaking in Estate Argyros and he has been already acknowledged as a capable continuator of the old tradition and the successful progress. Faithful to the principals of his ancestors, he remains also a visionist and he works hard for the future of Estate Argyros and the wine of Santorini.
The vineyard is located in Episkopi Gonia Thiras, with altitude of 35-150m, oriented to the east and south-east. The soil is volcanic and the vines are formed in the traditional crown. Estate Argyros owns one of the oldest vineyards on the island, as parts of it are more than 150 years old.
The performance of the vineyard is about 350-500kg of grapes per 1000 m2 and the harvest lasts from 10 to 25 of August.
The cultivation and the winemaking in Estate Argyros are based only on indigenous varieties from Santorini, such as Assyrtiko, Athiri, Aidani, Mandilaria, Mavrathiro, Mavrotragano and Voudomato. Besides, there is a big effort to revive the ancient and rare varieties of the island.
logo-en-GaiaGAIA Wines was founded in 1994 by Yiannis Paraskevopoulos (Agriculturalist and PhD in Enology from the University of Bordeaux II) and Leon Karatsalos (Agriculturalist).GAIA Wines was founded in 1994 by Yiannis Paraskevopoulos (Agriculturalist and PhD in Enology from the University of Bordeaux II) and Leon Karatsalos (Agriculturalist).
We own two modern wineries that are located in two of the most interesting and promising P.D.O. areas of Greece, Nemea in Peloponnese and Santorini. Gaia’s main aim is to present the potential of the indigenous Greek grape varieties in the wine enthusiasts worldwide.
Our company first emerged in the market in 1994 with the introduction of «THALASSITIS», a Santorini P.D.O. dry white wine that quickly rose to the top in the category of Greece’s finest new wines.In 1999, «THALASSITIS Oak Fermented», a Santorini wine produced in a very small quantity, and our most prestigious wine, «GAIA ESTATE vintage 1997», were born.gaia winery
It would be true to say GAIA ESTATE was the wine that changed the perception of the Nemea wines and brought a more sophisticated dimension to Agiorgitiko grape, that of deeply aged wines. In the same year, we also decided to produce a unique and rare vinegar from Assyrtiko grape, aged for 5 years, that had been released in 2004.Lately, in 2008 an unconventional wine sprang to life in our Santorini winery. «ASYRTIKO by GAIA Wild Ferment» is produced exclusively from a carefully gathered Assyrtiko, which ferments in small tanks and barrels processed by the reaction of indigenous yeast strains existing in the vineyard where the grapes were picked.Every new crop of this very special wine is characterized by the ecological structure of the yeasts that take the overpowering role.
Today, the 9,800 bottle production figure of 1994 is quite significantly surpassed by some 350,000 bottles, which we produce with the highest degree of quality in mind, in honour of those who show their trust in us.  

Domaine Gavalas

images gavalasThe 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 vinted in their winery (canava) in Megalochori.

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).

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.

Gavalas wineryIn 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, Brusco, Mezzo, Mandilaria and Vinsanto.

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.

Santo Wines

Our History

logo Santos

The Union of Santorini Cooperatives, Named AS SantoWines, was Founded in one thousand nine hundred forty-seven. Today, SantoWines, the biggest wine producer of the island, has approximately 2500 members that equals to the total number of the producers of the island, while 1000 of them are active.

Wine for us is art, made with love and care …. and for that reason we have gathered all the necessary elements …

We built a new, state of the art winery in 1992 and having as our main concern the continuous improvement of the quality of our wines, SantoWines people, with care and respect for the 3500 years of Santorini wine tradition, create our famous awarded wines Appellation of Origin Santorini of High Quality. SantoWines social responsibility profile goes along with its corporate strategic view. Our aim is to support Santorini producers and to protect Santorini vineyard and its unique in the world grape varieties.

santo winery

Research and Development
Research and Development SantoWines Department is Participating in the Special Projects Seeking Improvement of the cultivation techniques, of the vinification processes and quality of the Products.

In Santorini we have created a nursery of indigenous grape varieties so that Santorini vineyard remains genuine and in excellent condition.

End of Part 1.