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Wine of the Week

A Sun-Soaked Wine from Santorini

Santorini is one of those achingly beautiful groups of islands set in a cobalt sea under an azure sky one sees featured in Greek tourism literature.

Winemaking on the islands goes back 5,000 years, but the pivotal event in the archipelago's history was a giant volcanic eruption in about 1600 B.C. The main island of Thera and its half dozen smaller sisters are the tips of the giant caldera formed by that cataclysmic eruption.

This geological history is of more than passing interest to wine lovers, because the island's soil is now made up predominantly of volcanic debris from the giant explosion, and it is this soil that gives the island's famous white wine its distinct mineral quality.

The native grape, Assyrtiko, is also unusual in that, unlike other white varietals, it is capable of retaining a high level of acidity despite the bright Mediterranean sun. When you combine this acidity with the gravelly minerality from the volcanic soil, the wine can achieve a remarkable degree of charm and elegance.

A fine example is this week's Wine of the Week, the Estate Argyros, Santorini 2009 ($20), and it is an utter delight. Full and rounder, with a bigger mouth-feel than other Santorini bottlings, it is a charming, sun-soaked wine touched with the islands' volcanic mineral quality while conjuring suggestions of honey and lemon infused with Mediterranean herbs.

When to Drink: Now

Breathing/Decanting: Not necessary

Food Pairing: Seafood, chicken, lighter pasta

Grapes: Assyrtiko

Appellation: Santorini

Region: Santorini

Country: Greece

Price: $20

Availability: Moderate

Web Site:

Nick Passmore is an independent wine writer and consultant based in New York. For five years he contributed a widely read monthly wine column to, in addition to which his work has appeared in such publications as Forbes, Discover, Town & Country, the Robb Report, Wine Enthusiast, Saveur, Sky, and Golf Connoisseur. He is currently artisanal editor for Four Seasons magazine and contributes a twice monthly column to He is also a judge at the annual Critics’ Challenge wine competition.

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