Wine tasting in Santorini
Vinsanto and more!
Would you take your kids to a Wine Tour? We did!
When we got to Santorini, red signs on the road attracted our attention. They indicate the official Wine Road. Having done a bit of research, I already knew Santorini is well-known for the quality of its grapes, being the wine production top class. Those signs show that the island largely relies upon wineries to further enhance tourism. And they do succeed, so… my piece of advice is: Visit a winery! A genuine activity that connects you with locals in a unique way. And new tastes are a surprise!
Over the ninety percent of the island is devoted to grapes. Vineyards occupy over 3459 acres (14000 hectares) producing about 5000 tonnes of grapes. A local variety, the Assyrtiko only grows in Santorini, apparently since 1500 bC.
The volcanic soil, a mixture of kissiri (pumice) and ash, as also calcium, magnesium and iron shape the character of Assyrtiko. Moreover, the dryness of the atmosphere creates a hostile environment to insects. The unique climate of Santorini, the soil and the dryness, together with very low yields per acre are key elements that make wines rich in aroma and flavor.
Being on the road with very small kids (who obviously do not drink alcohol), made us wonder about what kind of visit to do. We wanted something that allowed us – adults – to try new varieties of wine, but that also gave something the kids. We contacted several wineries, but most of them only offered outstanding views of the island and a few glasses of wine; that meant bored kids becoming a nuisance.
Koutsoyannoupoulos Winery (the name is not so hard once you learn how to pronounce it!) had a proposal that seemed perfect from the beginning. And became even better after reaching out to them and seeing they indeed welcome children, – from pre-school up to college. They not only produce great wine, but have also created a wine museum dedicated to the process of wine production.
Koutsoyannoupoulos Wine Museum is very close to Vothonas, a village roughly in the middle of the island (which is quite small, 73 square kilometers). Their philosophy is to receive adults as well as kids from all ages to teach them about the history and culture of wine production, and the people involved in it, through the times.
It is a museum that creates a unique natural underground tour area, going down for 8 meters with a length of over 300 meters, very similar to a maze. It is divided by stages of production. Motion characters and explanations are easy to understand even for kids.
The whole combination completely ignited the interest in our kids. You can manage your tour by yourself: the audio guides (available in 21 languages) let you see the 24 stages as many times as you want. This means a visit can last from one hour up to whatever you want.
The museum and the people who received us were a very pleasant surprise. Our children were not only interested but encouraged to ask questions and understand the process of wine making both in the past and the present.
Koutsoyannopoulos Wine Museum received the second place in the list of Top Ten Wine Museums in the World, “A pleasant satisfaction – Mr. Koutsoyannopoulos says – that pays off for all the work done“.
After the learning tour, excellent to teach kids about grapes, processes and machinery, you will taste different wines the company produces. We sat in a luxurious and comfy bar area, and while the kids had fresh orange juice, we decided to try two different sweet wines, Vinsanto and the Kamarítis (superb!). Only Koutsoyannopoulos Winery produces this wine.
This is a 10-year old, naturally sweet wine made from sun-dried grapes. A wine that is a blend of six indigenous varieties of Santorini; three white ones: (Assyrtiko, Aidani, and Athiri); and three red ones: (Mantilaria, Mavrotragano and Mavrathiro). A curious note is that the name Kamarítis derives from the word kamara (meaning cave room).
For this variety, grapes are sun-dried for a fortnight, and their sugars are dehydrated and caramelised; then, the wine making process begins. The wine ages in oak barrels for 10 years before bottling.
They limit the production of this sweet, delicious wine to about 4.500 bottles per year. A limited production that was the secret recipe of the family’s great-grandfather. Another curious note, is that Kamarítis cannot be purchased outside the winery.
Mr. Koutsoyannopoulos wants this wine only for his visitors as a thank you gesture for coming and visiting the museum. (If you are flying back home with no liquid restrictions, you are likely to take a bottle with you, for it is delicious). Kamarítis is best enjoyed before or after a meal, ice-cold at 6-8 ºC with fruit, nuts, cake, chocolate or over ice-cream. A completely natural product with no additives. It is pure grape juice with 11 % alcohol.
It has an inviting fragrance, it’s sweet, warm, from medium to full-bodied and has an attractive darkish caramel color.
Vinsanto PDO is a naturally sweet wine, with a rich caramel yellow-brown colour. It’s made from white grapes sun-dried for 14 days. A blend of Assyrtiko, Aidani, and Athiri with strong rich aromas of caramel, coffee, dried fruits and marmalade, raisins and nuts. It offers a fine balance between intense sweetness and final acidity in the mouth. We also learnt the name Vinsanto is Italian and comes from the words vino (wine) and Santo (Santorini).
Vinsanto is exclusively produced in Santorini. Five kilos of dried grapes produce a litre of Vinsanto. The wine ages in oak barrels for 2 to 4 years before bottling. The aging process goes on in the bottles for some more years. This wine is served at 7-9 ºC, normally before a meal, accompanied by fruit, nuts, cake or chocolate. Also on top of ice-cream, or after a meal.
The visit to this winery was one of the best moments in Santorini. Our kids were involved in the learning part of the visit and wanted to know things “hard to understand for kids” like why does wine taste like chocolate..?
So, do I agree on taking kids to a winery, the answer is yes! They do not need to drink in order to learn, if that’s worrying you. For instance, they saw how grapes they pressed grapes in the past, and how this process is now mechanized; they learned that it pressing grapes bare-footed was a night job, because the hot weather was intense. Many things kept their interest alive for hours, and that also left us talking about advances in technology for the rest of the afternoon.
If you think Santorini is an island for romance and honeymooners, you are right. But if you think Santorini is there only for romance and honeymooners you are making a big mistake. There are endless possibilities. The Koutsoyannopoulos Winery Tour was one of them.
Visit the Winery:
GEORGE KOUTSOYANNOPOULOS WINERY AND WINE MUSEUM
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