Sigalas vineyards in Santorini
Domaine Sigalas was founded in 1991 by Paris Sigalas, Christos Markozane and Yiannis Toundas. Initially, Sigalas made his wine at the converted Sigalas family home. In 1998 a new vinification, bottling and aging unit was built in a privately owned area of Oia, on the northern part of Santorini. Today, after constant investments in technology and modernization the current production allows for the elaboration and bottling of 350,000 bottles per year. In addition Sigalas has been a pioneer in the organic viticulture . Since 1994 Domaine Sigalas has participated in the organic farming methods program and cooperates with DIO (certification organism for organic products).
The company continues to develop its strategy based on its founding principles - a creative relationship with the tradition, the Santorini Vineyards as well as the use of the best in winemaking technology, experience and quality products. These principles have always been and still are the fundamental basis of its philosophy.
The winery is located on the plain of Oia called Baxedes. The grapes planted are Assyrtiko, Athiri, Aedani, Mandilaria and Mavrotragano. The winery owns 14 hectares of organically grown Assyrtiko and includes permanent cooperation with local grape producers. Recently under cultivation are another 4 hectares of Aedani and Mavrotragano, 2.5 hectares of Assyrtiko and in the near future plans to add another 15 hectares of Assyrtiko.
Annual production: 2000 hl or 250,000 bottles.
The Sigalas Winery is open daily to the public for winery tours and wine tastings. Guided tours of the winery facilities are offered and include details of the winemaking procedure. The location of the winery in Oia is extraordinary and with its western orientation is the perfect place to take in the famous Santorini sunset, if you can't make it to the Caldera in time. Set in a traditional Cycladic setting, with a view to the blue Aegean Sea, the winery tasting room and patio provide the perfect venue to sample the stunning Santorini wines of Sigalas.
In addition, an authentic menu of local gastronomical delights is available for your enjoyment. Large groups are welcome and up to 80 visitors can be accommodated at one time.
Seasonal Visitor Hours:
June, July, August & September
April,May,October & November
The ancient civilization of Santorini was completely destroyed by a catastrophic volcanic explosion that occurred sometime between 1620-1640, BC. With every trace of life gone, all that remained was covered with volcanic ash, lava and pumice stone, which eventually lead to the creation of a compact soil, called "aspa". It was in Santorini that archaeologists discovered the ancient village of Acrotiri, the oldest and best-preserved bronze-age village in Europe. The archaeologists unearthed a great deal of evidence here that indicated the existence of viniculture and winemaking as far back as the Bronze Age. They found carbonized grape seeds, drawings that included evidence of vine cultivation and winemaking as well as numerous amphorae that were used to store the wine. Ironically, it was the "aspa" created from the volcanic lava that preserved this ancient era in Greek Civilization for future generations to study. According to written records, the vineyard of Santorini is the original one planted after the eruption of the volcano making it one of the oldest in Europe and a priceless part of the European viticultural heritage. The vineyards are all on original stock and are planted with many of the ancient varieties such as Athiri, Assyrtiko and Mandelaria.
Sigalas vineyards in Santorini
The porous volcanic soil of Santorini allows the earth to retain water, giving the vineyards the ability to stay nourished during the high summer temperatures. During the hot Greek summer, rains are extremely rare and the only source of water for the vineyards is the nocturnal fogs.
After the evening sun sets the island becomes enveloped in a fog that comes in from the sea. The vines are able to retain the water they need from this evening fog and use it during the warm daylight hours when it is needed most. Santorini was also one of the rare wine-making areas in the world not attacked by phylloxera, because of the high content of sand found in volcanic soil. Because of their resistance to phylloxera, most of the picturesque vineyards that cover the island are more than 100 years old and retain their original root stocks.
Every trace of life on this enchanting island is found on the top of an impressive rock. The winds saturate the island throughout the year. The only way for the grapes to survive from the direct exposure of sun and strong winds is to be protected inside low-basket-shaped vines, the "ampelies", as they are called locally forming a unique pruning system. The refreshing northerly winds that blow from July to September, known as the "meltemia", also help keep the vines from developing the numerous fungi that can result from the combination of summer heat and humidity.
Sigalas wine cellar
Today 14,000.000 sq m of vineyards are planted in Santorini. 20% of the vineyards are planted with the red grapes Mandelaria and Mavrotragano and the rest with the white grapes Assyrtiko, Athiri and Aedani as well as some Platani, Potamisi, Gadouria and Glikada. The most dominant of the white grapes in Santorini is the Assyrtiko in part because of its multipurpose characteristics. The yield in Santorini is also characteristically low with an average of 200-250kg per 1000 sq m.
The different wines of Santorini owe their special qualities to the unique geology of Santorini. The soil is rich in inorganic ingredients, but very poor in organic ingredients. It consists of cinders, rust, lava and pumice stone. Unfortunately, the older age of most of the vineyards, as well as the strong winds that blow year round, seriously reduce the volume of wine crop that can be grown. In addition, the highly developed and much more profitable tourist industry has driven many of the farmers to abandon their vineyards and become involved with tourism. It may be in the years to come that we will only be able to find the most hardy and passionate of farmers that are dedicated to their vineyards and are willing to continue the tradition.
Traditional vine cultivation
Assyrtiko is probably Greece’s finest multi-purpose white grape variety. It was first cultivated on the island of Santorini, where it has developed a unique character. It has the ability to preserve its acidity while keeping a high alcoholic content. Assyrtiko gives a bone-dry wine that has citrus aromas mixed with the characteristic earthy flavors that the volcanic soil of Santorini provides. It ends with a pleasant mineral aftertaste. In the last 25 years Assyrtiko was replanted in an area near Thessaloniki and from there many other winemaking regions of Greece have began to plant the grape. Away from Santorini, assyrtiko expresses a milder and more fruity character with less earth and mineral hints. It is resistant to humid conditions, most common vine diseases and is easily adapted to the different microclimates across the land. Assyrtiko, though, can easily become oxidized due to the high phenol concentration of the grape skins.
In Santorini, Assytiko is the predominant variety that qualifies for the production of the wines with the Appellation of Origin of Superior Quality: Santorini. It can also make excellent barrel fermented dry white wines. Assyrtiko can also be used together with the aromatic aidani grape for the production of the unique, naturally sweet wines called VINSANTO (wine from SANTOrini). Vinsanto is made from the traditional method of letting the grapes dry under the sun for 10 days to concentrate their juice. These sundried grapes are referred to locally as "Liasta". The wine is kept in barrels for many years and develops a wonderful color and bouquet that carries you away with hints of chocolate, coffee, butter, honey, and flowers.
Athiri is one of the most ancient of Greek grape varieties. The name of the grape gets its name from Thira, which is the other name for Santorini. In ancient times Athiri was known for the production of sweet wines. The grapes mature early, have a thin skin and give sweet and juicy fruit that are qualities especially in demand for the production of sweet wines. It produces wines slightly aromatic, having medium alcoholic content with low acidity. Athiri has been replanted in several other regions of Greece, with the variety being especially popular in Rhodes, Macedonia and the Islands of the Cyclades.
Aidani is another ancient Greek grape variety. We find it only in the Islands of the Cyclades, especially on the island of Santorini, Naxos and Paros. It produces wines pleasantly aromatic with medium alcoholic content and acidity. It can be successfully mixed with grapes having high alcoholic content and acidity such as assyrtiko.