Around 50 varieties of vines prosper in the mainly anhydrous island of the Aegean sea, its gemstone being the Assyrtiko, a local white wine variety, which according to the connoisseurs of wine is considered the best in the Mediterranean.

To the overall story of Assyrtiko there is one before and one after Paris Sigalas. He is the winemaker who applied mathematics to oenology in order to introduce Santorini’s brand name to the elite of international wine affairs. It is the same man who, with the support of his other enlightened colleagues, revealed a treasure which had remained hidden until then.

Paris Sigalas

Paris Sigalas

Within 20 years, Paris Sigalas created a new Assyrtiko, at the estate which he inherited from his father, in the northern part of Santorini. His career was based on an in-depth research of viticulture, and next on what he calls “the institutional protection of the vineyard”, aiming, in the long run, to include it in the areas protected by Unesco, following the example of other famous vineyards in France and Italy. The protected designation of origin (PDO) Santorini was one of the successes of the industry which he represents. “We joined forces and our business focus was on preserving the wines. We agreed on wine-ambassadors and the countries- markets we were aiming at. We started this private initiative with 15 winemakers and next, we collaborated with the Export Promotion Council”.

Kavalieros, Sigalas 2017

Kavalieros, Sigalas 2017

I ask him if the Santorini wine, due to its limited production, is expensive. “This is a myth and a superficial approach” he protests. “A Chilean or Australian wine may be cheaper in USA shelves, but it does not have the same character and personality with one of our own. To give you an explicit example, if ‘Santorini’ had a French or Italian label it would sell for double the price”

“if ‘Santorini’ had a French or Italian label it would sell for double the price”.

When it comes to the international awards his wines systematically receive, he remains distant. “The awards are a matter of luck unless of course they are repeated. On the other hand, I think that it is important that Parker, the top American wine guide has included us in its ratings” (I am informed from his website that Santorini 2011 has a very high rate of 92/100, whereas Vinsanto reaches an outstanding 95/100).

Despite his previous struggles, the winemaker is as active as ever. He worries about mass tourism on his island, which welcomed more than 2,000,000 visitors in 2018. He is further disappointed with the unplanned construction works on old, deserted vineyards, because of the increased need for tourist accommodation establishments. He hopes that local authorities and the island’s inhabitants will focus on quality tourism, the kind of tourism which is widely evident at his winery – an oasis of good taste in Oia, where wine tastings take place on a daily basis. Before we part ways his final words are full of meaning: “Santorini is one of the very few places in the world were white wines age exquisitely for up to ten years”.


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