Monday, December 14, 2020

Volcanic Dessert wine of Santorini with Boutari Ampeliastos

I was planning on highlighting an Italian wine this week, but after opening a bottle I brought back many years ago from Greece and enjoying it Thanksgiving I just had to share it with everyone.  I don’t know why I held onto it for so long considering it was a 2003 and I was a little nervous that it wouldn’t be in good shape, but I found it really enjoyable and paired lovely with all the yumminess of Thanksgiving dinner. 

Italy is my first love, but my few nights stay in the town of Oia on the island of Santorini in Greece was breathtaking.  It reminded me a little of the Amalfi coast with everything situated on steep hillsides and cliffs overlooking the Aegean Sea.  They say the sunset spectacles every day from Oia are some of the best in the world.  They were pretty spectacular. 

Island of Santorini
The Winery ~ Boutari 

The wine I’m referring to today is a 2003 Ampeliastos, a red dessert wine from the Boutari winery.  One of the days on the island we rented a four wheeler and drove out to the winery.  Boutari is an important figure in the Greek wine industry established in 1879 by Yiannis Boutari in Naoussa.  Although viticulture had taken place on Santorini since before the volcanic explosion in 1800 B.C., winemaking didn’t truly take place until towards the end of the 1980’s.  Boutari’s first harvest on the island was in 1989 and they were the first Greek winery to start with tours and tastings in 1990. 

Nea Kameni volcano kaldera from Santorini
Nea Kameni smoking volcano a short boat ride from Santorini

Boutari is well respected winery in the industry and has been honored with a number of awards over the years included being named for the 17th time in 2013 as Winery of the Year by Wine and Spirits magazine.  They have a number of vineyards in addition to Naoussa and Santorini along with Attica, Crete and Goumenissa.     

Wine tasting at Boutari Santorini

Winemaking in Santorini 

What makes the winemaking unique in Santorini are a combination of a number of factors.  For one the soils are mostly composed of volcanic, sandy soil.  The grapes face intense heat during the day with strong winds.  What I had never seen anywhere else were the types of vines in which the grapes grow.  The vines grow in a circular shape resting on the ground and are called “kouloura”.  This protects the grapes from the intense heat and wines and the vines absorb humidity created by the night fog.   

Kouloura grapevine on Santorini
The Wine 

The 2003 Boutari Ampeliastos is made from the indigenous Mandilaria grape.  It’s a black, thick skinned grape with notable tannins.  The Mandilaria grapes are hand-picked late and sun dried for 6-10 days.  The grapes are grown on volcanic, sandy soil on 50-60 year old vines.  The wine is aged in French oak for 5 years.  What first caught my eye was the color of the wine.  It was dark red, but had brownish hues.  A rich wine showing luscious ripe fruit and baking spices.  It was was very smooth with chocolate undertones.   

Boutari Ampeliastos Mandilaria

Has anyone had the wonderful opportunity to visit this stunning island and witness the unique vines of Santorini?


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