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Savor the Volcanic: Discovering Santorini's Nykteri
By Jessica Dupuy
Oct 18, 2023
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The Greek island of Santorini conjures visions of brilliant whitewashed villages and azure Aegean seas.  The iconic, blue-domed architecture and breathtaking sunsets of the Greek island Santorini lure travelers from all over the world.  But beyond the postcard perfection lies a legacy of winemaking dating back 3000 years, where hardy vines hug the ground, trained into basket shapes to shield grapes from fierce winds and phylloxera.  This ingenious growing method alone hints at the extraordinary wines born of Santorini's harsh volcanic environment.  From these challenging conditions emerges Nykteri, Santorini's fascinating dry white wine.

Nykteri offers a complex medley of flavors derived from local Santorini grapes, Assyrtiko, Athiri, and Aidani.  Aromas of lemon blossom, passionfruit, and sea spray drawn from the volcanic earth mingle with a briny minerality and brisk acidity – the hallmarks of Santorini whites.  Fermentation stops halfway to capture natural grape sweetness in a well-balanced, relatively dry style.

The name “Nykteri” refers to harvest at night, when cooler temperatures help retain vibrant acidity in the grapes.  Production requires meticulous vineyard management and winemaking skills to craft rich, layered wines while preserving Santorini's elegant structure.  Santorini's old vines have persevered despite their harsh conditions, and Nykteri allows us to savor that perseverance.  Each sip tells a tale through layers of flavor – the island's winds, volcanic soil, and parched climate.

While Santorini produces several stellar whites, Nykteri offers a singular island wine experience. Three leading producers of this exceptional style are:

Santo Wines
One of Santorini's pioneering wineries, Santo Wines was founded in 1947 by Vassilis & Ioanna Vassilaki.  Their grandson Apostolos Mantas runs the estate today, meticulously farming old vine Assyrtiko to shape Nykteri with intensity and purity.  Try their 2021 Santorini Mykteri, blending Assyrtiko, Athiri, and Aidani in a sleek, mineral-laced package.

Argyros Estate
Founded in 1903, Argyros Estate is now run by fourth-generation owner Matthew Argyros.  Try their 2019 Cuvee Nykteri, a late-harvest Assyrtiko that blends power with elegance with wet stone, green apple, and fennel accents framed by lively acidity.

Gaia Wines
Established in 1994 by Leon Karatsalos and Yiannis Paraskevopoulos, Gaia pioneered new vine training methods on Santorini.  Meticulous organic practices yield the mineral-driven Gaia Thalassitis Nykteri, textural and ripe-fruited yet fresh, with distinct saline and orange peel flavors.

The next time you dream of a Greek escape, uncork these white wines born from perilous conditions yet delivering unforgettable verve.  You'll feel transported to sun-soaked cliffs twisting toward the sea with every complex sip.      

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