There is money to be found in the lay of Santorini’s land. For over 4000 years, Santorini has prided itself on the production of a wine that is unique due to its’ harvesting circumstances. In order to generate income to sustain a stable economy, Santorini traded with many different countries: including France and Egypt. The wineries were not the only sources of wine on the island though, as every home contained a wine press. This enabled individuals to produce wine for themselves and excess to sell to the wineries to supplement income for Santorini.
Despite the high concentration of wine in Santorini, the production is still significantly lower than neighboring countries; Santorini harvests 400 kilos of grapes in a season where others like France produce 3000-5000 kilos. With this limited space on the island and less grape production, the top three wineries still generate 10% of the island’s income. As the wine maintains an important role to the island, the wineries discovered in 1970, that storing the wine in glass bottles would preserve it for a longer period of time rather than the oak barrels used in the past.
Wine serves a great importance to the island but that has slowly been pushed aside as tourism has greatly increased. With an economy highly dependent on capital coming from tourists coming to the island, more space was needed to be available. Therefore, land was being bought to build hotels and other buildings to support this change. This led to the uprooting of several varieties of grapes.
The Mavrotragano grape is unique to the island of Santorini. It has a dark red skin that allows for a sweet red wine. According to the wine-searcher, “The palate is full bodied, with an array of spicy, stewed fruits, laced with minerals, earth and leather” (1). This grape grows ungrafted (grafted- combination of two plants for the benefits of both) in the soil because of the flavor it produces on its own.
As the grape remains ungrafted, it sits in the volcanic material from the most recent Minoan eruption. The pumice that it sits in, protects it from the phylloxera mite. This bug eats at the roots of grapevines, destroying any ability to grow in the future. Because of the abnormal growing conditions, Santorini houses one of the few places in the world not affected by this mite.
The pumice that the vines grow in, allow for the roots to retain a greater amount of water and hold that water throughout the summer months. Pumice is created when gases dissolved in the magma expand rapidly creating rocks that are highly vesicular. The phylloxera mite is unable to live in these conditions because it is not real soil. As pumice is a highly vesicular volcanic rock, it can not support a mite reliant on the soil it lives in.
Wine has played a huge role in the success of Santorini’s economy in the past. As ideas change and time passes, traditions are lost. Despite a worldwide pressure to upgrade to the most convenient forms of production, many Santorini wineries are fighting for that traditional way of production. This will maintain a way of life for the locals and sustain the classic taste people around the world have loved for centuries.
1. “Mavrotragano Wine.” Wine-searcher. Wine-searcher Staff, 2014. Web. 5 June 2014.
Perpera, Sofia. “History.” All About Greek Wine. Thalassi Companies, 2010. Web. 5 June 2014.