The whitewashed buildings, blue domes, and rocky cliffs of Santorini are iconic for a reason. But the wineries of Santorini still fly a bit under the radar. Sure, a few are popular for the sunset views, but most people don’t realize how historic (and GOOD) they are!
Santorini’s vineyards are the oldest in Greece, and they benefit from a unique ecosystem created by successive eruptions of the volcano plus the island’s warm, dry climate. You definitely need to do some wine tasting in Santorini, whether through guided winery tours or just stopping in.
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A bit of Santorini wine background
The Santorini we see today was born out of one of the most violent volcano eruptions we know of, around 1613 BCE. It submerged about one-quarter of Santorini and broke the remaining land into chunks (now named Santorini, Thirasia, Aspronisi and Kameni islands), which surround a caldera—the volcanic crater, filled with water.
The island’s soil is dry, rocky, and acidic, with all those volcanic and ash elements like basalt, granite, pumice, and obsidian. On top of that, the weather is intense, with scorching sun and violent wind, plus very little rain (only 22 inches a year, plus sea mists and fogs).
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To protect the vines from the fierce winds, the Santorinians (Santorinites??) prune the grapevine very close to the ground in the shape of a coil or basket (kouloura, see below), giving it a safe nest and also helping it retain moisture. It’s incredibly unique, and fascinating to see just lines of these leaf baskets as you drive by.
And as it turns out, this combination of elements produces some great dry white wines that are balanced and light, acidic, and with a nice minerality that makes them refreshing.
Santorini’s wines were respected and desired for centuries, particularly by the Ottomans and Russians. Interestingly, some of Santorini’s vines are much older than most in Europe and they’re not treated with pesticides or chemicals…thankfully, the island did not get hit by the phylloxera louse that decimated vineyards across Europe and North America in the 1800s.
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What wine is Santorini known for?
There are more than 50 varieties of red and white grapes grown on the small volcanic island, but the most prominent and famous is the Assyrtiko. Combined with the soil and climate, it produces excellent, complex whites with hints of honey, green apple, minerals, tropical fruit, and sometimes a hint of herbaceousness.
Additionally, Santorini is known for its delicious Vinsanto wine, made from late-harvest sun-dried white grapes. This full-bodied dessert wine is aged at least two years in oak, and brings rich flavors of dried fruits, plums, caramel, hazelnuts, and tropical fruit.
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How to get to wineries in Santorini
There are many ways to do wine tastings in Santorini, and what’s best will depend on your preferences, budget, time, and more. If you’re doing a DIY tour, make sure you check with the wineries you’re trying to visit, to see whether you need to book your tasting in advance (some of them do fill up).
- Tours are very popular and convenient, as the logistics are handled for you (and you don’t have to worry about drinking and driving). You can do group tours (like these on Get Your Guide or Viator), semi-private (usually a very small group), or fully private to you/your travel companions.
- Many people will rent a car, ATV, or scooter for the day (or for their stay in Santorini), and this gives you maximum flexibility to visit different parts of the island and pop around to different wineries.
- There are some wineries that can be reached with a short walk from one of the bus stops on Santorini (a great cheap option), or you could take a taxi (quite expensive, don’t really recommend).
After doing a lot of research, I booked with Santo Luxury Escape, owned by Nikos Drosos, because I was doing a full-day Santorini tour with him the prior day and it was simpler to stay with the same company. I found him through a “Santorini Secrets” Facebook group I’d joined, and he was great (he also did my transfer to the port, at a better cost than the hotel provided). You can look up reviews on TripAdvisor.
My tour was €150 and we visited three wineries (the cost of the visit/tasting was included in this price). We did Argyros Estate Winery, Koutsoyannopoulos Wine Museum, and ArtSpace (he usually does Xatzidakis Winery but it was booked up).
Where to stay in Santorini: I spent one night at Aspaki Exclusive Hotel, and two nights at Charisma Suites. Both were awesome, but I HIGHLY recommend Charisma! You can see a couple pics of my room at the end of this post (my deep-dive review here), but it is in the perfect location, service & rooms were amazing, & it was easy to get to taxis too.
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Best Santorini wineries to visit
Santorini has more than 20 wineries scattered across the tiny island! SantoWines (in Pyrgos) and Venetsanos Winery (in Megalochori) are probably the two most well-known, due to the amazing views you can get from each.
They’re popular for sunset visits, and can be pretty busy all day depending on whether it’s peak season and how many cruise ships are in port. They both get great reviews and are worth checking out.
Additionally, here are some of the other Santorini wineries that came highly recommended, but I didn’t get a chance to visit. My winery tour included Koutsoyannopoulos Wine Museum, Argyros Winery, and ArtSpace.
- Xatzidakis Winery (Pyrgos)
- Gavalas Winery (Megalochori)
- Gaia Wines (Kamari)
- Singalas Winery (just outside Oia, supposed to have excellent award-winning wines)
- Vassaltis Vineyards (seems to be near Imerovigli and Varvoulos)
- Boutari Winery (Megalochori)
- Avantis Anhydrous Winery (walking distance from Fira)
- While not a winery, don’t ignore Oia Vineyart either…it’s a restaurant with a great local wine list and they’ll suggest great food and wine pairings
So now I’ll talk about the three wineries I *did* get to visit in more detail below!
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Koutsoyannopoulos Wine Museum
I’ll start off by saying that I’m really not a museum person. At all. Love history, but much prefer like…reading about it. So I was curious to see what type of experience I’d have at Koutsoyannopoulos. Nikos dropped me off at the welcome desk, where they handed me an audioguide and sent me on my way.
And by “on my way”, I mean “down a staircase into the tunnel museum”…
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The museum is really impressively thorough, going in-depth on Santorini’s overall history with producing wine, trading and economy, the geography and ecosystem, a bit on the process, and then a lot of great culture stuff as well. They also speak to the specific family who started this winery.
With the audioguide you can go at your own pace, so I went through fairly quickly (I’m quite familiar with the process of winemaking, so those parts aren’t as interesting to me). I did find some of the scene recreations with mannequins a bit unsettling 🙂
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The length of the tunnel and all the info provided is quite a lot. I particularly appreciated the goat-based story (third pic below). But let’s face it, I was here for the wine…so on we go!
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Once I came back upstairs, they sat me down at the long bar and told me to keep my audioguide since that’s what would tell me about the wines. Then the lady poured me four different wines. I tasted the Assyrtiko (both a dry white, and an orange wine), their red Ambelones, and the 10-year Kamartis dessert wine.
The Kamartis is unique to this winery, an aged red dessert wine (yes, red!). It was complex and AMAZING, described as having “rich aromas of coffee, dark chocolate, dried red fruits, prunes and dried nuts. A fine balance between intense sweetness, notes of tannins and fresh acidity.” And so I had to bring a bottle of the 2006 (almost a 20-year) home with me.
I enjoyed the wines I tasted at Koutsogiannopoulos overall, though they didn’t blow me away—except the Kamartis, it was worth coming here for that alone. It’s a great educational offering if you want to learn more about Santorini’s wine industry. But the overall experience to me was very impersonal which is less my preference.
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Next we were on to Estate Argyros Santorini Winery, founded in 1903 and still run by the family members. It’s definitely more modern and beautiful, and less crowded.
From the parking area and front of the winery, you have a view of some of their vineyards and the sea in the distance.
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Nikos handed me off to the staff, and I sat at the bar for a few minutes while I waited, soaking in the soothing atmosphere.
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Then one of the staff took me and another couple through a brief tour. She spoke about the unique basket-shaped vines, and the fact that their vines average 80 years old—one set is 200 years old!
She took us very briefly through the process as well, and answered the questions she was able to.
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Then I had a choice of sitting on the patio or going inside for my tasting. I was very tempted by the beautiful patio with views out toward the sea, but was already so hot and sweaty that I opted for air conditioning.
I started with the Atlantis rosé (which was really good!), then had their white (tropical notes, softer, very good). Next I had their 100% Assyrtiko, the “Santorini wine varietal”, which was drier, with more minerality and acidity…great paired with food, especially something oily.
And to that point, they brought out a little board of snacks and each time she poured me a wine, she told me what to try with it. There were individual local cheeses, a sesame breadstick, some local tomato paste, and dried fruits.
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And lastly, she poured me the 20-year-old Vinsanto. Which was DELISH!
Vinsanto means “wine of Santorini” (literally vin + santo), and it’s a dessert wine made from sun-dried Assyrtiko (white) grapes. It’s sweet and complex, not cloying. As I mentioned above, it tends to have notes of caramel, hazelnut, dried fruits (like apricot and raisin), tropical fruits, and honey. I definitely had to bring a bottle home.
Overall I really enjoyed Argyros, and would recommend!
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Art Space Winery Santorini
And for our last stop, we headed toward Art Space Winery in Exo Gonia. Nikos usually goes to Xatzidakis but they were booked up, which was a bummer since that one specifically I was looking forward to.
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Esmeralda met me and took me and a couple from Tennessee through the winery. She was great, very knowledgeable! ArtSpace is the smallest winery in Santorini (that third pic below is all the barrels they produced in a year), and one of only four that are allowed to distill the alcohols like raki.
She said that Pyrgos has the best wine terroirs, and that all their wines are PDO (Protected Designation of Origin, I think all Santorini wines are), using natural yeast, and with no filter.
As you might guess from the name as well, there are rooms filled with beautiful art that you can explore.
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We tasted a few different wines and had a few bites of cheese with them. There was the Nychteri and the Magrotragano red (very rare). Their Vinsanto was good, but I think I liked Argyros’ a bit better.
While it wasn’t part of the tasting, she also let us try their brandy (which the Tennessee couple loved).
So hopefully this helps give you an overview of Santorini wineries, and a deep-dive into a few that you should definitely consider!
Other amazing winery explorations you’ll love:
- Savoring The Spectacular Sights & Tastes Of Douro Valley Wineries
- Rosé All Day: Sampling the Wineries of Aix-en-Provence
- Exploring the Wineries of Mendoza, Argentina
- A Weekend of Wine in Willamette Valley
- Wineries To Visit In Sonoma Valley, California
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