VASSALTIS VINEYARDS | Santorini - September 15th, 2017
posted on 29/09/2017

A young, cosmopolitan businessman owning land in Santorini, two young distinguished oenologists with experience on the island, the necessary financial resources and one of the most intriguing vineyard regions on the planet. These were the basic ingredients of Vassaltis Vineyards, the youngest winery in Santorini, which contributed to the great result that naturally followed.

 

The brand new Vassaltis Vineyards winery in Vourvoulos, Santorini
 

Vassaltis Vineyards founder Yiannis Valampous dared to invest in 2011 at the heart of the Greek financial crisis. It seems his master's degree in investment management, as well as his experience in a number of foreign financial companies, shielded him with the necessary theoretical knowledge, while his boldness and luck also played their part. After all, owning four hectares of vineyards in Santorini, one of Europe's most expensive wine regions, is pure luck indeed.


Two young professionals stand by his side, offering their oenological knowledge and experience they obtained on the island in viticulture and vinification. Ilias Roussakis, having studied at the Agricultural University of Athens and Montpellier, and Yiannis Papaoeconomou with winemaking experience in Chile, New Zealand and Rhone, formed a dynamic team with an additional weapon: the experience of both in top Santorini estates Sigalas and Hatzidakis. Many experiences, much knowledge, lots of love for wine and Santorini. The result? Explosive. Volcanic. Basalt!

 

Young vines in the front, sea in the background

 

 

The winery’s main entrance from inside

 

Vassaltis volcanic rock inspired the winery

 

The beautiful, brand-new winery in Vourvoulos follows the simple lines of the Cycladic architecture and was completed just in the spring of 2016. It is a fully functional and visitor-friendly facility; apart from a wine tasting room and shop there is also an infrastructure for the future operation of a restaurant. This gives a great emphasis on the island's tourism, which exceeds 2,000,000 visitors annually. Moreover, sales at Santorini wineries are the most direct and effective advertising of their great work and the uniqueness of the vineyard.


The precious grapes from which 50,000 Vassaltis bottles are produced annually come from 25 hectares of vineyards. Of these, hundred are being cultivated by the company (both from owned and rented vineyards), while the winery also buys in grapes from collaborating vineyards (another 15 hectares). Of course, access to more grapes has become increasingly difficult in recent years, making filling their max capacity of 100,000 bottles quite difficult to achieve.

 

Partial vineyard view from the winery’s tasting room

 

Not such a bad place for an unforgettable wine tasting flight!


THE WINES


As the Vassaltis team know and respect the vineyard they belong to, they have created wines that carry unaltered all the qualities of Santorini in every bottle of Vassaltis. Vassaltis wines do not chase wine fashions and superficial impressions but elegance and the essence of the grapes. Each vineyard plot is harvested and vinified separately to explore its dynamics and then blended together with the rest to produce wines with balance and strength.

 

Some of the wines of the Vassaltis Vineyards range

 

 

Tastings and guided tours at the winery

 

The blackboard in the tasting room


Together with Yiannis Valampous, I tasted the following range:


Nassitis 2016 (35% Athiri, 35% Aidani, 30% Assyrtiko) – Yellow-flesh peach, white flowers and mineral overtones on the nose. Greater influence from Assyrtiko on the palate; warmer, tropical mouth and excellent structure. Nassitis is offered as a wonderful introductory wine for the ones less familiar with Assyrtiko.


Approximate retail price: € 13 // Annual production: 12,000 bottles


Nassitis 2015 (45% Athiri, 45% Aidani, 10% Assyrtiko) - Different varietal blend last year, resulting in ripe fruit, buttery sensation and flowers with heavier aromas. Round mouth, without corners and with a creamy feel.


Approximate retail price: € 12.5 // Annual production: 7,000 bottles

 

Sampling Vassaltis wines with the owner of the winery, Yiannis Valampous (left)

 

Santorini 2016 (100% Assyrtiko) – Aromas of wet pebbles, minerals, iodine, seawater, lemon, lime and grapefruit. A steel, typical, doric Santorini with unique balance and duration, lightly tannic and the sharpy acidity of Assyrtiko calling for pairings with big fishes and oysters. Sur-lie for 6 months in stainless steel tanks contributes to a unique job overall.


Approximate retail price: € 18.5 // Annual production: 32,000 bottles


* I also sampled 2015 and 2014 which I found to be a little more developed than I would have expected -for Santorini standards always. Of course these were the first winemaking efforts; imagine 2014 was vinified in rented space at another winery.


Santorini Barrel Aged 2015 (100% Asyrtiko) - Fermentation exclusively in new oak barrels of different sizes and toast levels for three months result in a beautiful aromatic profile of hazelnuts, ripe peaches, roasted nuts, tobacco and vanilla. Full body, very well integrated acidity and a long aftertaste. An impressive wine that I would like to have a slightly lighter barrel influence. In any case, it is perfect to match with truffle dishes, smoked salmon and white meats.


Approximate retail price: € 20 // Annual production: 4,000 bottles


Vassanos 2015 (100% Mandilaria) – Vassanos = suffering in Greek. Indeed the production of fine wine from Mandilaria is a real suffering, especially from traditional (basket-trained) vines which makes phenolic ripeness even more difficult to achieve. A grape with very dry tannins and a rustic character that others make it sweet, others in a Nouveau style. Vassaltis winery is probably the most daring of all, producing Vassanos through the classic red wine vinification route. Olive paste, Christmas cake, dried fruit, potpourri and cherries on the nose are complemented by very dry tannins and aromas of burnt wood in the palate. Quite rustic among a very modern and minimal range of wines, but it is certainly of -mainly aromatic- interest.


Annual production: 3,000 bottles

 

 

The tank room in a truly boutique winery

 

The (yet) few barrels of the winery

 

 

The pallet is ready for America!

 

Wine tasting in an exemplary place

 

Dusk in Vourvoulos, in front of the winery

 

Brand new winery Vassaltis Vineyards has come to shake the waters of Greek wine with a really promising impact so far. The difficult work of planting, investment and business establishment is already taken care of by Yiannis Valampous with his fellow mates Ilias and Yiannis. We were left with the ease role: the enjoyment of their wines with the basalt stones on the label, ideally at their fascinating winery in Vourvoulos, Santorini with the magnificent view to the Aegean Sea!

 

* Updated article originally published in Grape wine magazine (issue #2)

 

Gregory Kontos, DipWSET


Wine writer and taster, sommelier graduate and WSET Diploma holder, with an appreciation for food, traveling, music, friends and bon vivant things in general. Co-partner at Aegean Food Exports and founder of Aegean Wine Selections, a Company focused in Greek wine exports. He is married to Stavroula Mariamou and they have a son. 

 

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