Santorini Harvest Diary: A Cooperative Effort

AS THE LARGEST PRODUCER on this tiny island, SantoWines plays a critical role in keeping Santorini’s winemaking tradition alive. The winery, aka the Union of Santorini Cooperatives, was founded in 1947. Every grape grower on the island is automatically a member. Though the 1,200 member-growers are not required to sell their production to the cooperative, SantoWines purchases between 70 to 75 percent of the island’s harvest each year. Cultivated with great care in traditional basket vines in the volcanic soils, the grapes are picked by hand and brought to the winery in small crates to protect the precious whole bunches, and keep them in pristine condition before pressing.

Near the end of harvest, the grapes will dry in the sun for seven to 10 days, spread as far as the eye can see on patches of land overlooking the cliffs. Their days in the sun concentrates their sweet juices to make Vinsanto.

With its panoramic view of the west-side caldera, Santo’s tasting room is a must-see on anyone’s island itinerary—whether they drink wine or not. More than 100,000 guests a year visit the winery and its shop, which features the island’s bounty: wine, artisanal food items from products grown on Santorini, such as cherry tomatoes, capers, caper leaves, and fava beans.

Sipping a glass of luscious Vinsanto at the end of the day as the sun goes down is a favorite pastime for visitors and one of the more memorable moments during a visit to this idyllic island.

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