Assyrtiko

Origin: Greek, indigenous to the Island of Santorini

Grown: Greece, Santorini but also other islands and now some on the mainland

Climate: Warm Mediterranean climate

Soil: Thrives on volcanic soil

Viticulture: Still some very old, ungrafted versions of this variety out there (Might be due to a natural resistance to Phylloxera or the volcanic ash-rich soil where it is grown).  Often pruned into a “koulouri” basket to protect the wines against hard winds

Regional names to look for on label:

  • Santorini OPAP
  • Plagies Meliton OPAP

General Personality:

  • Colour: Bright yellow
  • Aromas: High aroma concentration, honey, passionfruit, flint, grapefruit
  • Taste and Texture: Always high acidity (even in very sweet wines), varied sweetness level and medium to high alcohol
  • Conclusion: Got a bit of a bad reputations for its involvement with the Retsina tradition, but truly an amazing grape variety on its own. Generally best unoaked (or done with balance in mind), when the true characteristic of the grape gets to take centre stage. Mineral rich and complex at its best!
  • Future: Can age well, both regular and barrel fermented/aged versions. Time will vary greatly though

Food pairings:

  • General: With its clean structure, it is hard to go wrong here. Fish, chicken and so on would be safe bets for the meat eaters. Would be a waste though to pair with something too intense. Balance here between intensity is key and preferably a component that can reflect the minerality in the wine
  • Obvious pairing: Greek Salad Pitas with Tzatziki
    It is not called “obvious pairing” for nothing. Greek salad with fresh good-quality tomatoes, cucumber, red onion (slice them thinly and do not overdose), kalamata olives, feta cheese (tofu based), and a side of fresh bread and tzatziki (preferably done with an oat-based yogurt). This is a good example of where local tradition exist for a reason
  • On the wild side: Mediterranean three bean salad with Dolmades
    Maybe a bit safe as wild side goes, but this is too wonderful to miss out on. Dolmades are generally always vegan, buying them ready made or making an effort and making them at home, either way, do not be afraid of flavouring them, especially mint matches Assyrtiko wonderfully. Usually Dolmades are eaten on their own, but I prefer to combine them with some protein, making it into a main course. As for the bean salad, it is hard to go wrong here, but this is a good one. Be a bit careful on the amount of the uncooked red onion though, can become an unpleasant pairing otherwise