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Assyrtiko: The Santorini Cultivar

“There are more than 60 grape varieties on Santorini” Abbe Pegues wrote in 1842, “but for the production of the ordinary wine and santo wine almost only one is used, the Assyrtiko, because it is the most prolific and the best”. Assyrtiko remains the dominant cultivar on the island, accounting for about 75% of the total terroir. It’s considered among the choicest white grape varieties in the entire viticultural “population” because its important range of chemical composition allows the production of high-quality wines of various types (white fresh and high-grade aged, sweet and semi-sweet, sparkling and wines that mature under a film of saccharomycetes) depending on the degree of technological maturity at which the grapes will be harvested. It’s about a notable, multi-dynamic variety.


But where did this blessed grape variety that has survived thanks to its resistance to powdery and downy mildew, two diseases of the wine that came from America and destroyed many European vineyards more than a century ago originate? Who brought the first cuttings of this plant, which has adapted so well to this difficult ecological environment and produces such high-quality wines with a special and distinctive character in terms of taste and aroma? No source has given an answer to these questions. However critical these questions are for historians dealing with the vegetal colonization and the routes followed by Dionysus’ sacred plant, one thing is certain: Assyrtiko has been enlivening the island’s volcanic earth with its greenery for hundreds of years continuously. Thanks to Assyrtiko, the most remarkable white grape variety in the Mediterranean basin, the Santorinians down the centuries have remained on their isle.

Source: Greece is Wine, 2016 Issue