On the Road in Santorini: Vinsanto

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A few of the things you notice as you step onto the dock of Santorini’s port are the super blue sky, the blazing sun and the volcanic rock. As you grow accustomed to the heat and the surroundings you begin to marvel at the sheer beauty of the place. Perfect white houses in contrast to ultramarine blue sky, domed churches clinging to cliff faces, whole villages incorporated into the rugged landscape. When you look out and see the puffs of smoke from the active volcano you begin to wonder if this surreal place was once the lost city of Atlantis. In this beautiful but harsh environment, there is little that survives the heat, wind and lack of water combination, but what does grow here has been carefully adapted to to the climate to thrive. Of these, vineyards are at the forefront. I have been looking at vines and tasting the results for many years now but never have I seen such an adaptation or tasted anything that resembles what comes from this small island. Normally, vines are trained either on a trellis system or head trained. But on Santorini, the vines are twisted into a basket shape that is grown very low to the ground with the shoots twisted inward to protect them from the harsh winds. Ingenious! Only four buds are left during pruning, thus putting all of the plant’s energy into the production of sweet fruit. There are also differences during the harvest and wine production as well. Because of the heat, the grapes ripen early and harvest usually takes place in August (in most places harvest is Sept-Nov depending on the variety). Once the grapes have been picked they are then set out to dry for two weeks. This concentrates the sugars (evaporating the excess water in the grapes) and deepens the colour. Once fermented, they are transformed into Vinsanto, a sweet dessert wine with notes of caramel, honey and raisins combined with a strong finish. Truly a well made and adapted wine to be appreciated.

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