Some of the earliest words ever attested in Ancient Greek are οἶκος and οἶνος, home and wine. So, as you can imagine, I was more than a little excited to experience the ancient Greek tradition of wine sampling within a family owned vineyard! Venetsanos Winery is located in the very heart of the volcanic island of Santorini, a place with some of the very oldest vineyards in the world…
Wine growing on Santorini
The volcanic island of Santorini (literally, the whole place is still an active volcano!) is best-known for the picturesque village of Oia, the island’s black sand beaches, and its breathtakingly beautiful sunsets. What you may not know is that the vineyards of Santorini are particularly unique in several respects.
This is because, instead of being cultivated in rows across poles, the plants are grown low to the ground. Throughout the year, the vine plants are naturally cultivated into basket-like shapes, so as to protect the precious grapes from the incredibly high winds that regularly blow a salty sea breeze across the island.
All Cycladic Islands are known for their high winds, and windmills are an iconic part of the landscape, particularly the windmills of Mykonos. The sea breeze, volcanic soil, and salty water on the island all contribute to give the grapes grown across the Cyclades a unique flavour which translates through to the wine.
Venetsanos Winery: Visiting a Vineyard in Santorini
The Venetsanos Winery was constructed in 1947, making it the very first industrial winery on the Greek Island of Santorini, a place best-known for its stunning sunsets, volcanic nature, and traditional Greek villages. Located right above the port town of Athinios and the glittering sea below, its strategic position used gravity and the laws of physics to easily transport the wine to be shipped away from the island for export.
Today, it’s possible to visit the winery in the form of tours, tasting, a wine museum, and of course, enjoying the magnificent view this vantage point has to offer. If you’re visiting from the city of Thira, then there’s a bus which will transport you directly to Venetsanos Winery and costs just a few euro!
Our trip to the winery began just minutes after stepping off a bus from the picturesque village of Oia. We were soon whisked below ground where we enjoyed a cool tour (literally, the cave tunnels where the wine was once made are naturally cold in the summer, while they retain their warmth in the winter).
From the plateau where the terraced tasting area is situated, it’s possible to see the volcanic islands near to Santorini, as well as the caldera. If you’re visiting the Santorini vineyard and you’re not part of a tour group, then you can still partake in the taste testings. For five (rather generous) samplings of wine, the tastings starts from around €10 per person.
Wine tasting at Venetsanos Winery
During our trip to the vineyard, we were lucky enough to sample several wine varieties that are produced on Santorini. When you try wines, you typically start from the driest wine first, so that the palate doesn’t get too overwhelmed by sweeter wines early on.
In total, we sampled four varieties: a dry white, a rich red, a sweet dessert, and a fruity rosé. These wines were sampled together with a light lunch consisting of traditional Greek cuisine. Think wrapped vine leaves, local cheeses, sundried tomatoes, and cold cuts.
One particular food of note were the tomatokeftedes. These fried tomato balls/ tomato fritters are a Santorini specialty and are basically formed of tomato, salt, onion, basil, and mint which are fried to create a delicious crispy snack.
Santorini Venetsanos 2017: The first wine was a dry white with undertones of flowers and citrus fruits. Light and a little salty from the volcanic soil, this 13% wine was so lovely that many of us opted to sip an entire glass of it later on in the afternoon. This lighter white is perfect for pairing with pastas, fish dishes, and simply lovely to drink on its own.
Mandilaria Venetsanos: We then sampled a dry red which had been matured over the course of five months. This very full red has multiple levels of fruit and is 12.5% in alcohol volume. The undertones of this rich red were strawberry, fig, and sour cherry, while the tannins of the red mean that over the course of several years, the flavours will change dramatically. The Mandilaria is perfect for pairing with red meats and heavier fish dishes.
Liastos Sweet Wine: The most unique of all the wines we sampled was that of the Liastos sweet wine. Unlike many other sweets, this 11.5% is naturally sweet in that it is produced from grapes which have been sundried over the course of 7-10 days.
Anagallis: The fourth and final wine we were to try during our time in a Santorini vineyard was the Anagallis, a semi-dry rosé. This wine is created from a blend of two white grapes and one red grape variety and is matured over several months. At 12.5% it was easy to drink and is said to go well with fish, pasta, and cheese-based dishes.
I visited the Venetsanos Winery thanks to Celestyal Cruises and Discover Greece. All opinions, photos, and wine reviews are my own! Thanks for having me (wine tasting on Santorini overlooking the Aegean Sea truly was a dream come true)!