This week the biddies journey to Santorini to talk about the volcanic wine made on this destination Greek Island. Santorini has more than just sandy beaches and signature white rooftops! Grab a glass of some refreshing Greek wine and join us.

Kara drinking: The Santo Winery Assyrtiko



Study Notes for Volcanic Wine from Santorini:

*Please note some of these lines might be directly taken from sources noted above.


  • Part of the Cyclades – a south Aegean archipelago of some 220 islands which are limestone peaks of a submarine mountain chain with the exception of Santorini and Milos that are volcanic peaks that formed along the South Aegean Volcanic Arc
  • In the 17th century there was a cataclysmic blast that created one of the world’s largest and most striking water filled calderas
    • A caldera is a cauldron shaped depression caused by the collapse of land following and eruption
    • It also created the islands of Thirassia and Aspronisi
  • Most seismically active area in the entire Mediterranean and western Eurasia lying along a highly stressed meeting point of the African and Eurasian Plates
    • African plate is vigorously subducting under the Aegean Sea Plate (a fractured portion of the larger Eurasian Plate) giving rise to a parallel volcanic arc where magma from the sinking and melting African Plate finds its way back to the surface
  • Palea Kameni and Nea Kameni (the old and new burnt islands) lie in the center
  • In 2011 volcanologists were convinced that the island was going to blow
    • Pressure had be building between those two islands in the caldera 
    • They experience regular upheavals adding a few inches with alarming regularity
    • The seabed was bubbling up and it was reaching critical levels
    • “We think its time to distribute the gas masks”
    • “We won’t sound the alarm and distribute the masks. If this turns out to be a false alarm, the entire tourist season will be lost and we’re all screwed. On the other hand, if the volcano does erupt, we’re all screwed anyhow. SO I prefer to do nothing and take my chances” – The freaking mayor
    • Nothing did happen but the science calls for a least a minor eruption in the next three decades and another major Plinian event in the next 10-20000 years
    • Lat big eruption was in 1620 BC – ash could be found in Asia Minor and the climate of the Mediterranean was disrupted for several years
      • Toxic gas and tsunamis killed anyone escaping by boat
  • Soil is not the right term for the surface material of Santorini – upper horizon is made of unweathered, coarse textured sand, pumice, ash, rock
  • In some areas layers of volcanic ash have fused together into a very compact soil called aspa – this is where grape growing happens


  • Has vines as old as 400 years (phylloxera unable to survive in volcanic soil)
  • A Santorini website claims that Santorini is the oldest vineyard in Europe
  • 4 classic varieties: the white Assyrtiko, Athiri and Aidani, and the red Mandilaria.
  • Evidence of ancient history of winemaking that was disrupted by volcanic eruption around 1640 BC
  • Soil allowed for cultivation around 1200 BC but only grape vines took to the volcanic soil well – Santorini cultivated a way of pruning the grape vines so that they grew in a circle around the grape fruit, sheltering them from wind
  • Wines of Santorini were well known and documented in travel writing from 1644 to 1854
  • Assyrtiko has been the dominant grape on the island for many years – accounts for about 75% of wine growth


  • Have grown as many as 50 varieties but the white grapes of Assyrtiko, Athiri and Aidani dominate

PDO Santorini

Vinsanto – the original Vino di Santorini

  • A blend of those grapes
  • Harvested and left to dry in the sun
  • Aged in wood casks for a minimum of two years but most prized stay longer – up to 10-20 years