Artemis Karamolegos Santorini Dry Assyrtico 2014

Bright gold color; floral nose; peach, tart citrus, honeysuckle, white chocolate on the palate.

Creamy, minerality—you can taste the salt air from this Greek-island wine, dry, medium-plus acidity, rich and full in the mouth. A delicious wine that most resembles sauvignon blanc, but with a dash of salt and Greek history to make it distinctive.

The wine is made using 90% assyrtiko grapes, a top-end grape that originated in the Greek island of Santorini in the Aegean Sea; athiri and aidani grapes complete the blend. Winemaking on the island dates back to 1200 BC and likely earlier than that even though Santorini Island presents wine growers with testing conditions. A C-shaped land mass created by volcanic activity—a huge eruption in 16th century BC destroyed everything on the island, leaving “soil” that is black and porous ash and pumice. The location and topography provides hot, dry summers with strong Meltemi winds, ameliorated by cooling night fogs. There is virtually no rain—things grow because the ground absorbs water from the almost constant night and morning fogs.

The solution to the environmental challenge is to grow grapes close to the ground, training them to form “ampelies” or “kouloures” (baskets) that are about waist-high and protect the grapes from the bright sun and strong, sea-salt laden winds, while also funneling moisture to the center of the vine.

Because of the sandy, rocky soil, phylloxera has never been a threat on Santorini, so vines often are a century old. After a century, however, some vines lose vigor and the farmers cut the vines off at ground level. The roots then regenerate a new vine. Root stocks in the vineyards may be more than 500 years old. This wine is made from vines that are 150 years old.

The island of Santorini is gorgeous, with white and blue houses and hotels built into seaside cliffs. It is a very popular resort and cruise ship destination. Only 6,000 people live on the island, and 1,200 of them are engaged in growing grapes. There are 10 wineries, so visitors easily can visit all of them during their stay at the Aegean resort. Artemis Karamolegos earned the Certificate of Excellence by TripAdvisor this year, recognition of great reviews by travelers to the winery and its restaurant.

Artemis Karamolegos Santorini Dry Assyrtico likely is a winery and grape variety you never heard of from a place you didn’t know existed. Now you do. The wine is sensationally good and generally available in the U.S. Go find some and get to know Greek wine. $21-24

Artemisk Aramolegos website

Second, third photos: Artemis Karamolegos vineyard and the basket training system for vines on Santorini.

Artemis Karamolegos Santorini Dry Assyrtico 2014

Artemis Karamolegos vineyard

basket training system