I reached Santorini on a cold, sun-drenched morning in early January and, without quite realizing how, ended up in the dug-out feast hall (panygirospito) adjacent to the church in Megalohori, eating meat and tomato stew with potatoes, and drinking Santorinian wine in lieu of coffee!
This was a welcome to the ‘normal’ Santorini, the one of real life – a Santorini that, having rested following the busy tourism season, takes on more normal rhythms, allowing us to enjoy it as we wish.
The sea glistened in a waveless caldera, and the villages glowed in the sunshine – freshly washed by the recent rains and dried by the northerly breeze.
In Pyrgos everything was shut, but I had come for a friendly visit to the winery of Haridimos Hatzidakis, which I had not yet managed to see with him since it was completed and became fully operational. And so later I walk and admire the vines, which at this time of year show their other side. The pruned vines, woven into basket-like coils, were spread out on the ground – artworks of daily life waiting patiently for the spring to bring forth the first shoots and, gradually, the next harvest.
On the saddleback between Pyrgos and the road to Athinios one finds the facilities of Santo Wines. The tasting hall is open and warm and welcoming. A glass of Assyrtiko here gazing at the breathtaking view is enough to turn anyone into a poet.
Walking along the brow of the cliff, we pass through Fira, stopping to pay homage at the Museum of Prehistoric Thera, and continue onwards to Imerovigli, to the hotel Iliotopos. Fortune smiles on us, as it is open all year round, and it hosts us impeccably. In the atmospheric dug-out wine bar of the hotel, a cornucopia of Santorinian wines await us, together with friends close to our heart. Our glasses clink and the conversation flows freely.
The winter is the best time of the year for curious travelers, because it is then that one learns all of the news! Such as, for example, the fact that there is a new impressive oenological arrival to the island. The renowned wine-making duo of the Biblia Chora Estate – Vangelis Gerovassiliou and Vassilis Tsaktsarlis – have recently ‘landed’ on the nearby island of Therasia. There, working with the local oenologist Ioanna Vamvakouri, they have launched Mikra Thira, as the new company is called.
We welcome our friends from northern Greece and look forward to them absorbing the legend of Santorinian wine-making, capturing the essence of the local varieties, and bringing to our glasses wines that will do justice to both the land and their names.
Until then, however, we will continue our evening revels with Assyrtiko, Nykteri, Mavrotragana and Mandilaria wines, topping them off with a Vinsanto accompanied by a sweet made at the hands of Eleni Konstantinidis who runs the pretty, traditional hotel.
This is my Santorini!
This article was first published in Greek in Kathimerini’s K Magazine (28/02/18).
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