THE WHITE WINES OF SANTORINI
Unique and distinctive wines that let you bring a little taste of Santorini home.
September 24, 2013 By Gregory Dal Piaz
I was planning on tasting these wines during the dog days of August, which never came not that I was in any shape to be tasting wines during them but that is another story. Fortunately for us summer seems intent on lingering a bit, so we can still enjoy the sun when we take our late afternoon snacks of grilled octopus and spicy shrimp on the patio. That of course is where the white wines of Santorini really shine, as a foil for simple yet decisively flavored foods. The char of the grill or the pungent flavors of lemon and mint can provide the perfect backdrop for the fruit and mineral flavors of Assyrtiko.
During the past few months as I’ve been tracking the weather on Santorini it has been undeniably beautiful with a virtually unbroken string of sunny days. That is what we tend to think of when we think of Santorini, and by association its white wines, and while that octopus on the patio sounds fantastic right about now, the truth is that these wines have their place year round, particularly when they see a little age on them or extended oak ageing. Having said that, a young bottle of Assyrtiko has such energy in the mouth, clarity and vibrancy that I can’t imagine not wanting to drink some year round. Try a bottle of the Gavalas Santorini or Sigalas Assyrtiko and see what these wines are really all about!
2012 Gavalas Santorini White 13% $17
Unspecified blend of Assyrtiko and Aidani
Tight on the nose with a fine blend of mineral and subtle sage like aromas. Juicy on entry, this hits the palate with admirably purity and liveliness showing off very clear and tense flavors of dusty dry earth, yellow fruits, and a faint hint of yellow tomato that picks up where the sage on the nose leaves off. I really the clarity this shows on the palate and tension in the mouth. Definitely towards the lighter bodied end of the spectrum, this is another wine with salty minerality that extends the finish, but accompanied by such a wonderfully refreshing purity of fruit. I can drink a bottle of this on the patio even if I didn’t have any octopus. 91pts
Subtle and complex on the nose with a fine blend of floral, dusty mineral and orchard fruit aromas. With excellent focus this enters the mouth broad and firm delivering layers of polleny floral, pithy citrus and minerally flavors that show excellent depth on the palate. This is at once lean and somewhat rich on the citrus, melon and faintly fig flavored palate and shows excellent length on the minerally and tense finish. Almost salty on the finish this begs one to take another sip, another mouthful of food, another sip… 90pts
Tight on the nose with a hint of tar laying under notes of dried peaches and preserved lemons. Very smooth and polished in the mouth, theres good acidity here and fine underlying minerality but this has a richer mouthfeel than most whites from Santorini, a mouthfeel even a Chardonnay lover could be attracted to. The flavors lean towards the mineral, with some under-ripe apple and peach notes on the mid-palate that lead to a long, slightly astringent and textural finish that offers quite the contrast to the lush mid-palate. A modern take on Assyrtiko that remains true to its roots. The finish here really shows how assertive Assyrtiko the grape . It is not to be tamed. 87pts
Minty and floral on the nose with green tea accent notes helping to frame the core of almost jammy and yet unripe apples with a hint of strawberry like red fruit to it. This is the middle of the road. Everything is in balance with solid acidity, round apply fruit, good minerality but the wine feels safe right through to the mineral laced yet somewhat rounded finish that shows a pleasant pineapple character along with green apple skins. Attractive but I’m not sure what direction this should be going in. 86pts
Honeycomb and pumice greet the nose with subtle notes of old apples, old wood and dried flowers all topped with hints of coriander and caper adding complexity. Moderately rich and certainly powerful in the mouth, this feels less acidic than it might be, though it stays well structured in the mouth relying on both the acidity and minerality for stability. The mid palate is deep and rich with fruit that shows flashes of red fruitiness along with a core of sweet pear, spicy herb and a touch of wood spice before the minerality kicks in on the back end, along with a touch of heat. The finish is so dusty its tactile, with fine length to the pear and peach skin flavors that linger until a fine, bright mineral note appears on the finale. This is a powerful wine that demands some food, and something more substantial than grilled octopus at that. The heat detracts from the appeal a bit but I would like to see where this goes with some age. 86pts.
Lovely on the nose and fairly fruit with hints of apricot and quince under a sheen of sapwood framed lime with just a pinch of dusty minerality as a top note. That friendly, fruity character on the nose translates to the palate as well where this is fairly fruity, though not lacking in either acidity or minerality. Zesty and bright, this finishes strongly where the minerality really plays out dueling with the flavors of quince leading to an apricot finale. Yet on the palate this is almost a bit sweet with fruit and shows an attractive if surprising hint of mint on the back side of the palate. 85pts
Dry and a bit stony on the nose this shows a bit of a woody accent and a little hint of the sweetness of oxidation wrapped up in aromas of sweet gum and beeswax. Supple, low and elegant in the mouth, there’s a softness here that benefits from the modest richness of this wine. Very easy drinking, if a bit short on the finish, this delivers modest yet balanced flavors of stony minerality and unripe peach skin notes but the appeal of its texture is undeniable. Perhaps not as assertively flavored as some wines from Santorini, this will be more of a crowd pleaser. 85pts
Deep and golden in color. This smells predominantly of old wood with fair underlying complexity of dried fruits, dried flowers, spearmint. honey comb and toasted almond. Smooth, with integrated acidity, this does have a lovely texture with flavors that have faded somewhat with time yet remain well balanced and moderately fresh. There’s a touch of honeycomb here, along with a chamomile note and some dried herbal elements that carry this through the finish where some creamy citrus flavors add their impact. Rather refined and decidedly for the crowd who appreciates the character of aged white wines, this is more interesting than enjoyable though should be better with food. 85pts
Preserved lemons, lemon verbena, flowers and a sweet, nutty base note greets the nose. A bit softer than most whites from Santorini, this does show of a nice white minerality in the mouth but it lacks some height in the mouth and intensity of flavors. A bit of lime, a bit of mineral, a bit of herb, attractive flavors are here but they don’t knit together particularly well and float away on the finish which is modest yet somehow leaves on with an aromatic freshness in the mouth that recalls the smells of the air after rain. 83pts