“The Wines of Greece: Santorini and Assyrtiko” is the theme of a comprehensive 15 page report that has just been released by The International Wine Review . They publish bi-monthly reports that are available by subscription only, a six-month online subscription (3 reports) is offered for $ 25.00 and includes access to all previous reports. A total of 19 reports have been published up to date. A future report that will focus on four Greek indigenous varietals – Agiorgitiko, Xinomavro, Moschofilero, and Assyrtiko, is scheduled for 2010.
The report is based on first-hand experience; the publisher visited the island and met with many of the growers. One fact that immediately caught my attention is the high level of due diligence that took place: Sofia Perpera and George Athanis contributed to the report. Sofia Sigala , Iliana Sidiropoulos , and other winemakers from Santorini provided information. Konstantinos Lazarakis MW and Angelos Noulas read and commented on drafts of the report. This clearly shows that the report has been carefully drafted and is a viable source of information.
After a short but solid introduction, the reader is presented with the history of the island. This section might appeal only to those that wish to find out who ruled Santorini during different periods of time, but I learned some interesting facts that I was not yet aware of.
The next part covers the soil, climate and vineyards of the island. This is a must read for everyone who likes to get a better sense of why the wines of Santorini are so unique. Relaying many facts in just more than one page can easily make for an uneasy reading experience, but here, the words just flow. I enjoyed reading this part a lot.
In the following few segments, the input of the “insiders” really shows. The segment on viticulture includes paragraphs on vine pruning, pests and diseases. Details about yields and vine density, and the growers strive to experiment with the cultivation of grapes are well researched. The unique pruning and training systems are explained, and the problem of weeds is pointed out. The most important grape varieties are also discussed in a short and to the point style.
In the winemaking section the typical harvest times for the main varieties are given. Every wine geek will love the detailed description of the fermentation and yeasts. This was actually my favourite part. Different options for oak treatment that the growers are experimenting with are pointed out. The aging potential for Assyrtiko wines is discussed and backed up by personal tasting notes taken at a symposium in Santorini. And of course a section on how Vinsanto is made is not missing.
Next comes a piece on pairing Assyrtiko with food. The Sommelier of the Zaytinya Restaurant in Washington picks a handful of food groups to go with this wine. The choices did not surprise me, as I often enjoy Assyrtiko with similar dishes, but anyone should go along with the recommendations and try the suggested pairings. Two recipes are also included.
A discussion of the future for Santorini and Assyrtiko rounds up the main part of the report and asks the question if tourism and winegrowing can continue to exist side by side.
The last pages of the report introduce the main wineries of the island and include tasting notes and ratings on different wines for each estate. This section is geared towards US subscribers and does list the various importers through which the wines can be purchased in the US.
If you like studying reports that go way beyond scratching the surface of their subject, then this is for you. It is very educational and includes a few real gems of information. It is not meant as a quick read – although the writing style is anything but boring, the sheer amount of information given needs the attention of the reader.
Is it worth taking up a subscription in order to gain access? There is still far too little high quality information available on Greek wines. I put out all my content for free, but my motives are different. The i-winereview publishes top notch content, and I know how many working hours are needed to succeed in doing so. For $ 25.00 you get access to 19 reports from which a lot can be learned. I am sure of one thing: After studying this report on Santorini, the next glass of Assyrtiko will speak to you in a whole new language. You can find an article from me on Santorini here.
Disclaimer: Apart from linking to a free article on their site, I am not affiliated with The International Wine Review in any way, nor do I have any financial interest in regards to their publications. In fact, this review might have well been unfavourable if the report would not have met my own standards.