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2015 Domaine Sigalas, Santorini Assyrtiko, Santorini, Greece
The long winemaking tradition of Santorini island coupled with modern practices and state-of-the-art technology are the founding principles of Domaine Sigalas, one of the most highly-appreciated Santorini wineries.
The vineyards are situated at the fields of Oia village, at the northern part of the island. Mild winters, cool summers and the island's volcanic soil create a unique ecosystem, favouring the production of high quality wines, of distinct character. The most versatile grape variety of the Mediterranean region, the Assirtiko (or Assyrtiko) of Santorini, as well as other indigenous varieties - Aidani, Athiri, Mandilaria, Mavrotragano - are cultivated, giving superior quality wines, which have gained many international distinctions..
Sigalas farms its Mavrotragano at a density of 6,000 vines per hectare, trellised and with an average age of just 7 years. Irrigation on this arid island is permitted, administered post-veraison, with the bunches limited to four per vine. Average yields are in the region of just 20 – 25 hectolitres per hectare. As for vinification, Sigalas avoid the use of pumps at all phases, favouring a more protective approach. Cold maceration last for approximately one week and the resulting fermentation takes place in used French oak barrels. In achieving physiological (phenolic) ripeness Mavrotragano builds sugars and, as a result, may reach as much as 15% alcohol by volume. This grape has an affinity for new oak, in which it matures (an element of which are new barrels) for some 18 months.
Assyrtiko (aka Assirtiko) [pronounce: A seer' tee ko] is one of Greece's signature white wine grape varieties, used for both dry and sweet wine. It reaches its apogee in the island of Santorini (where it was first planted – currently 70% of the island’s vineyard area). It yields a bone-dry, steely wine that has deliciously concentrated citrus aromas mixed with an earthy, mineral aftertaste evocative of the volcanic soil of Santorini.
Uniquely, the vines are cultivated in low basket shaped crowns, pinned to the ground, for protection from the often fierce winds dominating the climate in Santorini. Coming off the sea, the nocturnal fog brings much needed water to the vines during the dry, hot summer season and this, coupled with the cooling northerly winds provide the right growing conditions for the grape to thrive.
Assyrtiko is highly resistant to most grape diseases and this partly explains why it been widely re-planted throughout appellations in Greece, such as in Paros, Naxos, Crete, and in smaller quantities in Attica, Drama, Epanomi, Halkidiki and Hromitsa, Drama.
Owing to its pronounced mineral profile, Assyrtiko stands up well for blending with grapes such as Sauvignon blanc, Sémillon and the indigenous Greek white grape Malagousia.
These are wines to be enjoyed young or aged; the ideal complement to delicate dishes, fish, seafood and, surprisingly, even grilled meat dishes.
More famously, Assyrtiko is paired with the aromatic Aidani and Athiri white grapes for the production of a distinctive, naturally sweet wine called Vinsanto (derivative of the name Santorini), known since the Byzantine times.
Vinsanto can be naturally sweet or fortified and must be barrel-aged for a minimum of 2 years. The opulently sweet Vinsantos display a deep amber colour, a thrilling nose of crème brûlée’, chocolate and dried apricots and a palate of dates and dried figs.
The volcanic island of Santorini is one of the southernmost in the Cyclades archipelago and among the most famous in Greece. Growing vines has been a long-standing activity and it has successfully survived the competition for hotel-land as well as the extreme viticultural conditions (volcanic eruptions, severe summer drought, hot weather, dry, ferocious winds)
In this unforgiving viticultural environment, vines are pushed to their limits, struggling to produce even 2 tonnes per hectare. This also results to an extraordinary definition of flavours in the fruit.
Asyrtiko, the standout Greek white grape, planted throughout Greece including Macedonia and Attica, is at home here with a magnificent combination of body, steely minerality and high acidity. It works extremely well in its own, but it also lends itself to blends with the more mellow and fruity Athiri and Aidani grapes.
Assirtiko wines are bone-dry, showing citrus aromas intermixed with an earthy, mineral aftertaste that reflects the volcanic soil of Santorini.
Vinsanto or Vissanto
Vissanto, produced since Byzantine times, is a local sweet wine speciality, made from sun-dried Assyrtiko, Aidani and Athiri grapes. Mature examples are half-way between Oloroso and Tawny Port. Less sweet, more youthful versions from a combination of raisined and and un-raisined grapes, or from grapes that have undergone less sun drying, show peach flavors and a lingering aftertaste of wildflower honey, supported by mouthwatering acidity.
Although the island didn't have a reputation for red wine, the red cultivars of Mandilaria (20% of vineyard area) and the oak-aged Mavrotragano (of the Mataro-Mourvedre lineage) have now gained recognition in the Greek wine-making scene.
A rare examples of sweet wine (Madeira-style) from sun-dried grapes is also produced by the local Mavrathiro.
Santorini is home to several pioneering boutique wineries. Certain of these have propelled the local industry to achieving modernization, innovation and international recognition; Sigalas, Hatzidakis, Argiros, Antoniou and Heliopoulos are some of the premium quality producers.
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