Vinsanto wine Santorini, Greece
Vinsanto dessert wine Santorini, Greece (Credit: winesofgreece.org)

Santorini’s Vinsanto best Greek wine in the world

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The beloved dessert wine Vinsanto of Santorini was selected as the 5th best alcoholic beverage in the world by TasteAtlas, the premier online guide for traditional culinary experiences. The name of this lusciously sweet wine comes from the Venetian words “Vino” and “Santorini” (Vino di Santorini = Wine of Santorini). Although the wine is similarly named, this Greek bottle has little in common with the Italian Vin Santo (“Holy Wine”) from Tuscany, central Italy.



Santorini island, Greece (Credit: Simm, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Vinsanto is an ancient winemaking tradition of the volcanic island that dates back thousands of years and represents an important part of Santorini’s history. To be called a vinsanto, the wine must be made with at least 51% Assyrtiko, a white grape indigenous to the island. The remaining 49% is made up of Athiri and Aidani varieties and some small amounts of locally grown white varieties. Santorini assyrtiko grapes have Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status, as do the island’s distinctive fava beans, tomatoes and vinsanto wine itself. 

Vinsanto wine of Santorini (Credit: Santo Wines)

When the grapes used for Vinsanto reach the desired degree of ripening (14-15 Be), they are collected and sundried under the hot Aegean sun for about 10-12 days. They are then crushed and fermented and aged in oak barrels for at least 2 years but most producers opt for longer maturation. The result is a 100% naturally sweet wine packed with flavor and rich in aromas that captures even the most demanding consumer. Its flavors and aromas are very complex reminiscent of dried fruits, honey, caramel, coffee, nuts and spices.

It is said that Vinsanto should be served chilled, can be drunk on its own, and also pairs well with desserts or sharply salty cheeses. Whatever the pairing choice may be one thing is for certain: Santorini’s volcanic soil and unique climate play a crucial role in shaping Vinsanto’s character.  Of the more than 20 winemakers on the island, only a handful make vinsanto.

VINSANTO SANTORINI WINE
Grapes drying out in the sun on the Greek island of Santorini (Credit: seligmanwaite, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

“Although Vinsanto has been renowned since the 12th century, it did not acquire true fame until after 1783 when it journeyed to Russia’s large markets. Today, more than two centuries later, this rare, sweet diamond of the land of Thera still performs so spectacularly that it is not exaggeration to claim that its place among the top dessert wines worldwide has been rightfully earned” writes winesofgreece.org.

Vinsanto wine of Santorini (Credit: Santo Wines)

“Naousa wines display the perfect balance of tannins, sugar, and acidity, while the typical aromas and flavors include a complex combination of savory notes that are often reminiscent of dark and red fruit, tomatoes, plums, earth, tobacco, herbs, and spices. Naousa ages exceptionally well and is rarely enjoyed young. Because of its complexity and finesse, it is often cited as one of the finest Greek wines. An ideal pairing for this tannic wine is game, lamb, tomato-based sauces, rich stews, sausages, mushrooms, and aged cheese ” says TasteAtlas.

Sitting at number 72 is Malagousia, an ancient, white-skinned Greek grape that was virtually extinct until Professor of Oenology Vassilis Logothetis re-discovered it in Nafpaktia, Central Greece and presented it to one of his students, Vangelis Gerovassiliou, in the 1970s. The grape produces aromatic dry wines, which are usually of excellent quality. Experimental vinification began at the Porto Carras winery in Halkidiki, and later continued on Vangelis Gerovassiliou’s own estate in Epanomi, 25km southeast of Thessaloniki.

Crete’s tsikoudia, a fragrant, grape-based pomace brandy that contains 40% to 65% alcohol by volume, ranks 67th. “Tskikoudia plays a central role in Cretan hospitality; it is a staple on various special occasions, and it is often used as a welcoming drink. It is typically served neat and well-chilled, and it makes an excellent aperitif or a digestif.”

TasteAtlas food rankings are based on the ratings of the TasteAtlas audience, with a series of mechanisms that recognize real users and that ignore bot, nationalist or local patriotic ratings, and give additional value to the ratings of users that the system recognizes as knowledgeable. For the “Top 100 Alcoholic Beverages in the World” list until April 15, 2024, 30,487 ratings were recorded, of which 23,601 were recognized by the system as legitimate.