The success story of the Union of Santorini Cooperatives becomes immediately apparent on your first visit to the SantoWines Oenotourism Center, right on the edge of the caldera. Over 400,000 travelers from all over the world visit the center each year to learn the secrets of winemaking at the island’s biggest winery, to try exceptional Assyrtiko, Nykteri and Vinsanto, to buy celebrated local products with the Santo label of quality – including fava, tomatoes, capers, the traditional spoon sweet of white almonds simmered in local honey – and to discover the essence of local wine and food culture. With its amazing view, the Sunset Terrace is ideal for relaxing with a coffee or a glass of wine accompanied by cold dishes, as attested by five-star reviews on TripAdvisor, while the shop serves as a showcase for years of efforts in branding and standardization, with the aim of ensuring that the island’s products retain their authenticity.
Established in 1947, the Union is a great asset for the local community. With 3,000 members, over 1,000 of whom are active, it managed to keep agricultural production alive at a time when tourism fever was turning vineyards and farmland into hotels. “Without the Union, the people who worked the land would have moved to the cities and Santorini’s famous products would have been confined to a very small scale,” says Markos Kafouros, the Union’s president and head of the National Interprofessional Organization of Vine and Wine, which, under the name “New Wines of Greece,” is promoting Greek wine all over the world.
SantoWines, offers various tour and tasting programs: from the regular tour that briefly explains the winemaking stages and concludes with the tasting of three wines (€9 per person) to the memorable experience of a full tour of the installations, ending with a tasting of 18 (!) wines accompanied by cheeses and other local delicacies
(€35 per person).
Today, SantoWines is the driving force behind development based on sustainability and quality. It gives incentives and good prices to growers, safeguards the Protected Designation of Origin status of products, promotes the cultivation of native varieties, encourages exports and invests in the island; initially with its ultra-modern winery, completed in 1992, then with the store in 2000 and now with the complete renovation of the tomato processing plant at Monolithos. The Union’s activities directly or indirectly benefit one-third of the island’s inhabitants. Innovation remains its top priority, a good example being the introduction of a new department, which utilizes the waste from winemaking to produce cosmetics and food supplements. Its list of products is continuously growing. After last year’s innovative Sparkling Assyrtiko, a world-first, this year saw the addition of a sublime organic Assyrtico, as well as organically grown fava beans.
“ With its amazing view, the Sunset Terrace is ideal for relaxing with a coffee or a glass of wine accompanied by cold dishes. ”