IT is EXTRAORDINARY that somewhere so hot can produce wine with such singing, stinging minerality and acidity, but that’s assyrtiko for you. it is one of the world’s great white grapes, yet until we all started to realise how amazing greece’s indigenous varieties are, you could hardly find a bottle of it anywhere.
santorini is of course a volcano, and volcanic soils seem to give wines with a particular energy, a particular sparkiness. The vines here are extraordinary too: there’s a local training system called koulara that winds the canes in a basket, with the clusters on the inside. every 50 years or so everything is cut back to the roots, and the vine starts again. This system offers protection to the grapes from the incessant wind; and there’s not much rainfall, so dew and mist have to sustain the vines through the hot summer. There’s no phylloxera on the island so all the vines are ungrafted, and some are allegedly 500 years old. What is more certain is that many are over 100 years old. hatzidakis farms its vineyards organically and biodynamically, and the grapes ripen early at the beginning of august.
This wine is the standard assyrtiko; there is also assyrtiko de Louros, aged in old oak for greater weight and ageability, and single-vineyard assyrtiko de Mylos. Both are impressive, but i prefer the standard bottling for its purity, clarity and precision.
The wine is substantial, savoury, with keen acidity, and orange peel and floral notes, saltiness and an unmistakeable tannic edge. it’s energetic, concentrated and vibrant: a structured, sinewy wine from a unique and difficult place.