The impossibly dramatic setting of Santorini was created in 1500BCE, when the volcano beneath it erupted, forming the cauldron-like caldera, the remnants of which plunge from the clifftops into the Aegean. It is an extraordinary place for many reasons, just one of which being that it produces Greece's greatest wines.
The wines of Santorini are a rare thing. They are of the very highest quality, truly world-class, and they are unique to this particular place. In the volcanic soils of the island, phylloxera (the louse that destroyed most of Europe's vineyards in the late 19th century) cannot survive. As a result, many of the vines here have root systems that are hundreds of years old. This, coupled with the Santorini climate and the inherent qualities of the Assyrtiko grape variety, yields special wines of the very highest quality. The best rival Grand Cru Burgundy.
Assyrtiko, mainly used to make a dry white wine, is the principal grape variety here. Although it is grown elsewhere, Santorini Assyrtiko has a special power and intensity that has yet to be replicated. But it is not the only variety - Athiri and Aidani are also used extensively, especially blended with Assyrtiko to make the island's extraordinary sweet Vinsanto. The best of these are almost everlasting and among the world's greatest dessert wines. Small quantities of red wine are also made. Look out for Mavrotragano, which produces a very deep, powerful, brooding red not dissimilar to Bandol.