Around 5,000 years ago, the Minoans settled the Southern Aegean, including the island of Thira (Santorini). Today, in Crete, farmers are cultivating the ancient variety Assyrtiko which originated from the island of Santorini. The Alexakis brothers source these grapes from high-elevation vineyards where ancient winepresses have survived since the Bronze Age. The wine is tank-fermented and aged sur lie for three months.
The Alexakis family is one of the most important ambassadors of Cretan wine. It is the largest privately owned winery in Crete and during its long path has collaborated with all the winegrowers on the island. The result is high quality wines that truly represent the Cretan terroir. The winery is a family affair. Stelios Alexakis, chemical engineer turned winemaker is still in charge of the winery with his wife Sofia responsible for quality control.
Children Apostolos and Lazaros, who literally grew up in the winery, join their father as winemakers and are now responsible for the planning and production, successfully transferring the valuable knowledge and insight of their parents.
A picturesque Mediterranean nation with a rich wine culture dating back to ancient times, Greece has so much more to offer than just retsina. Between the mainland and the country’s many islands, a wealth of Greek wine styles exists, made mostly from Greece’s plentiful indigenous varieties. After centuries of adversity after Ottoman rule, the modern Greek wine industry took off in the late 20th century with an influx of newly trained winemakers and investments in winemaking technology.
The climate—generally hot Mediterranean—can vary a bit with latitude and elevation, and is mostly moderated by cool maritime breezes. Drought can be an issue for Greek wine during the long, dry summers, sometimes necessitating irrigation.
Over 300 indigenous grapes have been identified throughout Greece, and though not all of them are suitable for wine production, future decades will likely see a significant revival and refinement of many of these native Greek wine varieties. Assyrtiko, the crisp, saline Greek wine variety of the island of Santorini, is one of the most important and popular white wine varieties, alongside Roditis, Robola, Moschofilero, and Malagousia. Muscat is also widely grown for both sweet and dry wines. Prominent red wine varieties include full-bodied and fruity Agiorghitiko, native to Nemea; Macedonia’s savory, tannic Xinomavro; and Mavrodaphne, used commonly to produce a Port-like fortified wine in the Peloponnese.
A crisp white variety full of zippy acidity, Assyrtiko comes from the volcanic Greek island of Santorini but is grown increasingly wide throughout the country today. Assyrtiko’s popularity isn’t hard to explain: it retains its acid and mineral profile in a hot climate, stands alone or blends well with other grapes and can also withstand some age. Somm Secret—On the fairly barren, windswept Mediterranean island of Santorini, Assyrtiko vines must be cultivated in low baskets, pinned to the ground. The shape serves to preserve moisture and protect the growing grapes in its interior.