Know the Grapes: Assyrtiko

Assyrtiko is the Greek variety that has found its way into the wine lists of top restaurants in the USA and the UK and opened the discussion about the new age of Greek wine. It originated in the volcanic island of Santorini, but it has expanded to other Greek wine regions. It is the first native Greek grape variety to be planted in other countries as well like Italy, Australia, Cyprus, South Africa, and the USA.

If you have ever visited the volcanic island of Santorini where it was born, chances are that you have already tasted its bright acidity and enticing minerality!

As a variety, Assyrtiko is bold, with a magnificent combination of vibrant acidity together with salty minerality. It could be said that it is “a late bloomer” as it can seem simple in its youth but after a couple of years in bottle it is able to reveal many layers of complexity.

White Wine Glasses by the sea

Terroir and climate influences

Assyrtiko has the ability to reflect the terroir in which it is grown. In the arid, volcanic soils of Santorini, it shows a distinctive salty, mineral character. Assyrtiko wines from mainland Greece are fruitier while those coming from other island terroirs like Crete, Tinos, Patmos, and Paros have both fruit and minerality on a par.

Assyrtiko wine characteristics

Assyrtiko wines can be tight and citrusy with lemon and lime in their youth, developing stone and tropical fruit aromas depending on the level of ripeness along with the telltale rocky saltiness. It’s mouth-watering acidity and minerality  will pair beautifully with raw shellfish, sea urchins, and lemony-sharp fish carpaccio dishes. For fried fish or any food that would require a squeeze of lemon, Assyrtiko’s fantastic acidity will balance the fat. Creamy dishes based on white meat, such as chicken or pork, will also work.

 

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