Joe visits the magical island of Santorini


As we continue to celebrate our new partnership with wine travel specialists Winerist, we look back at our presenters visiting just a few of the many wonderful places Winerist offers tours to.

This week, we revisit Joe Fattorini’s incredible trip to the magical island of Santorini, complete with a spot of deep-sea diving!

Davy Jones’ Cellar

Joe Fattorini

Yiannis Paraskevopoulos has a naughty sense of humour. He may be one of Greece’s leading winery owners and a Professor of Oenology. But he jokes around putting on his wet suit, bobging about in his boat in the Mediterranean. He goes through all the formal diving protocols and splashes into the sea. Fifteen minutes his arm appears clutching a bottle of wine. Like Nimue, the Lady of the Lake presenting the sword to King Arthur, we grasp the bottle from his theatrical clutch.

Later over lunch, Yiannis gives me a second bottle to open with Matt and Matt. “When you open this one” he says “get them to sniff the outside of the bottle first”. I ask why, sniffing our bottle which has an attractive, iodine and oyster tang. “It won’t smell so nice in a few days” he laughs.

So why does Yiannis leave over a hundred bottles a year of his Assyrtiko wine at the bottom of a bay in the Mediterranean off Santorini? It’s an experiment. And a fascinating one. Because it turns out the sea is a pretty perfect environment for ageing wines. It’s dark (light is a great enemy of wine). It’s cool. The temperature is constant. And there’s absolutely no oxygen whatsoever. That is the really important part. We try Yiannis’s wines aged both above and below the sea. Assyrtiko ages well, its characteristic, bracing acidity mellowing with time and allowing a warm, lemon fruit to evolve. In the land-aged wines (if you can call them such a thing) there’s a nuttiness. It tastes old. But in the sea-aged wines, the mellow character comes with a brightness and clarity in the fruit. The wine tastes old and new at the same time.

And it’s that sense of old and new living side-by- side that embodies the wine business of Santorini. The island’s vineyards have some of the oldest vines on the planet. We walk through the vineyards at Estate Argyros seeing vines planted during the reign of George III. “That one was planted around the time of London’s Great Plague”. The fruit all carries the hallmark acidity of volcanic soils, and those soils date from The Minoan eruption of Thera. This was one of the biggest eruptions on earth in recorded history, and devastated the island in the second millennium BCE. It also buried, and preserved, the town of Akrotiri. Complete with three-storied houses, advanced urban planning and… wine. The large amphorae sitting where they would have done around 3600 years ago.

Santorini is a holiday paradise. The calm waters in the volcano’s caldera are some of the prettiest swimming in the Mediterranean. The food, the houses, the churches. But it’s also one of the most fascinating wine regions in the world. Too warm for most grapes, but able to produce zingy whites and sublime sticky Vinsanto through a combination of unique soils, unique grapes and generations of unique producers. Every wine lover should try these wines. None will ever regret it.

Ktima Alpha Axia White Malagousia/ Sauvignon PGI Floriana

There’s a wonderful spirit of experimentation among Greek producers, like matching the familiar zest of Sauvignon with adventurous aromatic and heady aromas of Malagousia. This is a richly textured wine, a foodie not a drinkie. Herby roast chicken or fish stew are perfect combinations.

Book your wine and travel adventure with The Wine Show and Winerist

The Wine Show has partnered with specialist wine and food travel company Winerist to provide experiences in many of the countries we’ve featured on screen. Together we are offering unique wine tastings, holidays and tours that we are sure will thrill and exhilarate you. Book now to experience the unforgettable.