Santorini Wine Museum Koutsoyannopoulos Winery
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Production Then and Now

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Akrotiri, on Thira, is a wellspring of information on the nature and environment of the Bronze Age, the people residing there, their occupations and their diet. Information concerning the agricultural economy sector also includes data on viniculture and winemaking. Charcoal made from vine wood and gigarta (seeds) of cultivated grapes are the most direct evidence pointing towards viniculture on Thera since at least the 17th century BC. The depiction of grapes on urns from that era, whether painted or in relief reveals the popularity wine enjoyed in that era as well as the potential prestige it lent to those involved in its production.

The production of wine was confirmed by a relatively recent find, the lino (wine-press) and the must collection receptacl . Another particularly interesting find was a wicker hamper filled with quicklime discovered within the wine-press . This find provited another piece of information about prehistoric winemaking : the use of quicklime.

Apparently, wine was stored in large urns with narrow bottoms and a vane just above the base. The variations encountered in the decoration of these urns (a column of concentric circles) suggest that wines was possibly stored according to varietes or quality . A similar vane-equipped urn was recently found in deeper strata, dating back to the 18th or 19th c. BC, taking us back a couple of centuries earlier in the history of winemaking on Thera. In certain cases, the vane is protected by small arched accessories within the urn interior , where a branch of thyme or burnet was used, just like today, to prevent obstruction of the vane. Perhaps these specially equipped urns represented an intermediate stage for must before it was finally transfused to storage urns, after being purged from any solid derbis – grapes, pips or leaves.

A fragment from the rim of a large urn was found with an inscription in Linear A . Although this script has not been deciphered yet, certain symbols in compination with ideograms comprise standardized ligatures expressing specific goods. In our case this includes the logogram for wine, which is known from corresponding monuments on Grete. This confirmed our postulations concerning the storage of wine in urns. It seems that these urns were insulated on the inside with beeswaz, according to the results of lipid analyses we performed on samples. Akrotiri has also provided us with evidence of wine exportation. This concerns a category of special urns with a narrow opening on the side, so as to minimize the risk of becoming unsealed during transport. These urns, which are known as stirrup jars have been identified as used specifically for transporting and transporting and trafficking wine and oil(More than half of the total number of stirrup jars of this era found in the entire region of the Aegean have been found in Akrotiri. Thousands of table utensils and cups come from Akrotiri and can be found in every home. Some might have been used for the consumption of wine (Pictures 10-12). The scene depicting a man filling another man’s cup illustrates this . The urn dates back to the 18th-19th BC and the scene might be of a ceremonial nature. However, could a beverage served during such a ritual be purely innocent, with no pleasant side effects?

From what has been said above, it becomes apparent that wine was a major commodity on Thera, contributing not only to the island’s economy but to the development of its relations with the outside world, as well – relations which have continued through thousands of years, to the present.


Chr. G. Doumas
Professor Emeritus, University of Athens
Director Of Excavations at Akrotiri
The process of wine-making is fairly easy to describe. However, it is not an equally easy task for the winemaker. Winemaking requires knowledge and skills regarding ploughing a field, pruning vines, harvesting, vinification, analysing grape juices, bottling and storaging; above all, winemaking requires a certain quality known in Greek as meráki, which means putting your soul, creativity, and passion into what you are doing.
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Ploughing

Ploughing in Santorini at the beginning of the 20th century.
Vinedressers would plough three times a year to oxygenate the soil and make it fluffy, so that the vines can produce more fruit.

The Santorinian plough was manufactured in such a way that would not go more than 12cm deep. This prevented the vine roots near the surface of the ground from breaking, and helped keep the roots moist which was vital to the lifecycle of the vines, since the island was arid.

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Pruning

The pruning season for vines in Santorini takes place between November and February.

We always leave three or four of the strongest branches intact and three bud-eyes on each branch, which are the points from which the grapes will develop. The branches with bud-eyes are woven into circles to form a basket (Greek kouloúra) where all the bud-eyes can gather together for the grapes to grow and be protected from strong winds.

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Harvesting

Harvesting in Santorini usually takes place in mid-August. Due to high temperatures and lack of water, grapes tend to grow faster here than in other areas.

In Santorini, harvesting is a big event celebrated in the fields by numerous harvesters.
In the vineyards, it is common practice to whitewash stones so as to create paths and check that all vineyards have been harvested.

Santorini presents a rather low yield of 400kg in relation to other areas which present yields of 3000 to 5000kg.

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Vinification

In our laboratory, we analyse the properties of grape juice and the wine we produce. Our facilities and equipment enable us to run tests and learn more about the hidden secrets of grapes and wine. The laboratory is an important part of any winery.

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The Laboratory

In our laboratory, we analyse the properties of grape juice and the wine we produce. Our facilities and equipment enable us to run tests and learn more about the hidden secrets of grapes and wine. The laboratory is an important part of any winery.

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Bottling Facilities

Here we can standardize our products with the use of the latest technologies in bottling equipment. We put forth our best effort to provide great appearance, excellent condition and aesthetic quality in marketing our products.

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The Cellar

Here we can standardize our products with the use of the latest technologies in bottling equipment. We put forth our best effort to provide great appearance, excellent condition and aesthetic quality in marketing our products.

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Vineyards

Archaeological excavations at Akrotiri provide evidence that the cultivation of vineyards in Santorini dates back 3.500 years.

What makes the vineyards in Santorini unique is their particular soil. The soil of volcanic origin has a minimum amount of organic matter and is poor in nutrients.
Pumice traps humidity during night time and early morning hours. It functions as a water tank, firstly by storing water and then by distributing the necessary amount of water to the vineyards.

The particular hot and dry climate of the island in combination with the volcanic soil prevents the development of diseases. For instance, phylloxera, an insect that plagues all vineyards on the planet, failed to survive in the climate of Santorini.
It is rich in ash, sulphur, porcelain and iron.

The most popular grape variety is called Assyrtiko. It is largely cultivated in Santorini and can be distinguished from Assyrtiko grown in other parts of Greece, due to its high levels of acidity and alcohol, metallic and earthy aftertaste. Assyrtiko produces wines that are sharp, aggressive and extremely dry.

It is one of the few indigenous European vineyards. The vineyards owned by our winery are located at the areas of Vothonas, Megalochori and Fira.
We continue the tradition of cultivating the vines by using the kouloúra method, namely weaving the branches into baskets.

An ancient technique is used for pruning:
Strong winds in the area tend to scatter pumice all around the island. In order to protect the new buds from the fierce sand blasts, the vine-grower prunes and weaves the branches into a basket in which the grapes will grow.

The vineyards are all arid. In general, yield per stremma (1 stremma=1/10th of a hectare) may amount to 5.000 kg of high quality grapes.

Our winery maintains approximately 100 stremmata (10 hectares) of traditional vineyards. The vineyards are gradually being renewed each year, so that old and weak vines are replaced by young, strong and productive ones.

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