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When you think of wine regions of the world Greece probably doesn’t automatically come to mind, but in actuality Greece is by far one of the oldest wine-producers with a practice starting thousands of years before Christ. Beginning around 1600 BC, Greek civilization and the cult of Dionysus (the god of wine and the grape harvest) spread throughout the Mediterranean and today the country still has a strong winemaking tradition.
Though wine grapes are grown throughout Greece, there a few regions specifically known for their wine, including the Cyclades islands and Santorini in particular where assyrtiko grapes produce a dry, citrusy white.
While on the island I hoped to do some wine tasting in Santorini, but since I was traveling alone, didn’t want to go by myself. I happened to meet another girl traveling alone at the right place at the right time, the way in which travel serendipity often seems to work out, and we chose to visit Santo Wines on the west side of the island close to the main town of Fira.
As we walked up to the winery I thought to myself, “Well, this doesn’t look very impressive”. Coming from the West Coast, I’m used to visiting wineries surrounded by rolling hills, fertile vineyards and lots of greenery. Santorini is a volcanic rock – there’s not much vegetation at all and the entrance to the winery had a slightly industrial warehouse feel. As soon as I walked through the entrance however, my thoughts quickly changed to “Whoa…this is gorgeous” to, “Uh…am I going to be able to afford anything?”. I had spent the day before in the charming town of Oia walking past restaurants and resorts (like these…one can dream…) and knew many things on the island were out of my price range.
Set atop a cliff overlooking the Aegean Sea, the winery’s restaurant and tasting room is mainly situated on a long outdoor terrace offering panoramic views. Contrary to my initial impression, it was actually the classiest place I’ve ever been wine tasting. What made it even better was how well we were treated – we had come straight from the beach and were sunburnt and covered in sand – and the value for money.
For a 12-glass tasting (which included heavy pours that were certainly more than a regular tasting) with bread, olives and cheese it was just €17 (just over $21 USD). Not bad at all. Pretty unbelievable in fact, especially when you consider tasting fees in Napa average out at about $15 and lack the view of the Cyclades.
Since it was at the end of the tourist season we were one of the few tables there. I’m sure in the high season it’s packed around the clock, especially around sunset when the terrace views looking out over the ocean rival those of Oia, the classic sunset spot of Santorini said to have some of the best sunsets in the world. Being at the winery at sunset was just as pretty, plus there were less people and it was cheaper to sit down with a drink than in Oia. Win, win, win.
Of course, connected to the tasting room is a winery shop where you can purchase bottles of wines and specialty food items from the island.
Started in 1992, SantoWines is located in Pyrgos village at the edge of the island’s famous caldera. You can reach the winery easily by bus if you don’t rent your own form of transportation. Taxis also go to and from the winery to other parts of the island, but are relatively expensive. In the high season it’d be a smart idea to book a tour and tasting online to make sure you get a spot and try to stay for the sunset!