The Vinsanto harvest comes to a sweet end at the Gavalas Winery. The Assyrtiko grapes destined for Vinsanto, the traditional sweet wine of Santorini, are the last to be picked. These bunches are left on the vine until the end of harvest to soak up the sun and ripen to a golden sweetness. Once they are harvested by hand, the grapes are then spread out on mats to spend between 7-10 days drying in the sun, to further concentrate their luscious juice.
When it’s time to press the grapes most wineries now use mechanical presses, but the Gavalas family is the last commercial winery on the island to still press Vinsanto the traditional way—by foot. This year the 4th and 5th generations of the family met at the winery to continue the tradition by pressing the grapes with their feet. Because they want to keep this process alive and share this unique experience, they welcome visitors at the winery to literally “step in” and help.
The sun-dried grapes are spread out in the original winery foot-pressing vat, and the rich juice flows by gravity through a basket that acts as a filter and into tanks below ground. The grapes are pressed four times. After each pressing, they are swept into a corner of the vat and left to sit for a few hours, then spread out and thoroughly stepped on again to make sure that all of the precious juice is extracted.
After our hard work, winemaker George Gavalas measured the sugar level of the juice and when it got his seal of approval, he shared it with us. The juice is then put into old oak barrels for fermentation and aging.