Santorini: Exploring the Island’s Wine Roads

As I’ve mentioned, my time on Santorini centered primarily around relaxation. But, every now and then, I would drag myself from my balcony hot tub (ah, the struggle!) and head out for an activity. And what better activity than wine tasting?

In Santorini, winemaking goes back literally thousands of years, so you know they must have learned a trick or two by now. Eager to learn more about the island’s wines, I signed up for a Santorini Wine Roads tour. The tour, which picked me up and dropped me off at my hotel, included stops at three wineries, a visit to a wine museum, assorted snacks, and some pretty sweet caldera views.

We began at the Wine Museum. Housed in a natural underground cave, the Wine Museum presents the history of wine on Santorini from 1660 to 1970. The museum’s exhibits, filled with life-size figurines and machinery, take you through the winemaking process from start to finish. It’s mildly cheesy, but the audio guide is good and it’s neat to visit a museum with such a specific niche.

Upstairs at the Wine Museum, we visited the Koutsoyannopoulos Winery (imagine trying to spell that in a spelling bee) for our first wine tasting. The tasting space at Koutsoyannopoulos is intimate but beautiful, and there we tried four different pours: an Assyrtiko (a young, light white wine with floral and citrus notes); a Physalis Rosé (a blend of Assyrtiko and red grapes); a Vinsanto (a sweet, caramel-colored wine produced exclusively in Santorini); and a Kamaritis (a naturally sweet wine that “looks like a liquid jam,” in the words of our guide).

At our second stop, the Avantis Winery, we tried five wines. We began with a “vertical tasting,” sampling two different vintages of the same wine, one Assyrtiko from 2013 and one from 2015. We then moved on to other tastes: the Grace Rosé, a Syrah (one of Avantis’s signature wines), and the “Princess” (a sweet red wine). Avantis featured a cute courtyard and sold lots of wine-themed merchandise; I myself bought a Syrah scented body lotion because…. why not? It smells incredible, for the record.

We rounded out our day at the Venetsanos Winery. While all our stops were great, this one may have taken the cake: it features a huge, airy tasting space, plus absolutely phenomenal cliffside views (it would have been an ideal spot to watch the sun set). Here, we were served a sampler of meat, cheese, and fruit, along with four wine tastings: an Assyrtiko (do you sense a trend?), the Nykteri 2014 (a limited edition, oaky wine), and a red wine and dessert wine whose names I didn’t catch (I was …. pretty deep into wine by this point).

The Bottom Line: Santorini is known for its eponymous Vinsanto, but in truth, the island features a broad spectrum of wines. I recommend trying to sample as many as you can, and taking a wine tour makes that goal super easy. I loved the convenience of being chauffeured from vineyard to vineyard by a guide who knew his stuff. Yamas!

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