Santorini is not just an island. It is a floating dream!
Santorini; The Lethal Beauty of Cyclades. If you have not yet been there, it should be an incurable obsession. You just have to go check it out even for just a weekend. If you start from Piraeus with the fastest boat, “high speed”, it takes about 5 hours. You begin at 7.30 and arrive just before 12.30. By plane, it is only 35-40 minutes. Note that we are not talking about the airport of Plaka. Before the Eleftherios Venizelos was built, the airport of Santorini was the largest in the Balkans!
FOOD IN SANTORINI
In Akrotiri near the lighthouse, you’ll find well-made, fresh fish in tavern “Giorgaros.” Giorgaros and his siblings, like all men in their family are fishermen, with their own boats who spend all day at sea. Back in the tavern live the women and children. Therefore here, you will find always find fresh good fish.
The “Metaksi Mas” restaurant in Exo Gonia is relatively hidden. That’s because Exo Gonia (The outside corner) is not a very touristy area. The lads who own it are Cretans and have very good food. The spot where the restaurant is located has a very nice view of the sea, the mountain and Prophet Elijah, with the monastery.
The “Krinaki” of Ia, is an eatery you’ll meet in the entrance of Finikia Village. It is the first village on the way to Ia. It does not have a view over Caldera, but it is placed in an inside alley of the village, in a very picturesque place, and has very good food. They have no standard menu. They cook depending on what they find available. So, we are talking about genuine seasonal ingredients. The food here is not cooked by a professional Chef graduate of some cooking school. Here you will be treated by a traditional cook who uses his own local materials. For example, if you take a closer look at this place, you will see jars with local sweets and Florins peppers. Don’t you think you can buy them for home though. They do not sell anything, They produce them and store them to use for their own restaurant.
The “Elia” restaurant in Kamari, is located on the seaside promenade. It belongs to Bellonias Villas Hotel. The menu is Greek, but a little lighter than the traditional of Santorinis housewives. That means, with less searing, cooler tastes, but still Greek dishes. I have started to appreciate the Santorini natives. They are smart people who maintain the values of their land.
In Pyrgos, in the village square, you can eat in the tavern “Kallisti”. Here you will find many traditionally cooked meals and local sweets of their own production, which they do not sell but only serve at the restaurant, such as capers, sundried tomatoes and “psarolia” (dried small fish, served with vinegar and oil).
In Perissa a nice restaurant is “Lava”. Here, there is no menu. You choose from what you see in the window, in witch is what they have cooked each time. Of cource, it has fresh fish and steaks, but apart from the classics, they also make local delicacies, very neat, with special flavors like peppers stuffed with wheat, raisins and peanuts, and mushrooms stuffed with pine nuts and cheese.
“Roka” is a modern tavern Ia. Here you can order the classic meat balls with fries, but for starters, you can try the camel meat pies and fried twisted cheese pies of Skopelos type. For main course we recommend veal liver with Vinsanto (traditional wine from Santorini)
Santorinis fava beans, tomatoes and capers.
When you find yourself in Santorini, it will be a great opportunity to buy exquisite local products for home. That’s because products that were actually made in Santorini are different than the ones you find elsewhere. Also, even if you are in Santorini, do not hurry to shop, unless you ask first. In other words, do not rush into any shop and buy whatever lies ahead of you. Chat with locals yourself and find out where you can shop the best unique flavors of the island. Check out where the everyday vendors, the greengrocer and the fishermen camp in the square and shop whatever you want from there: When you try Santorinis fava beans, fresh tomatoes from July and August and capers you’ll definitely know the difference. The tomato juice the organizations of Santorini make is of double or triple condensation. It is more expensive, but in reality it evens out, because it has more intense aroma and taste, so you put fewer amounts. And of course, you will also get the sweet wine of Santorini, the Vinsanto.
Wine of Santorini
Santorini is one of the oldest vineyards in the world and the most important vineyard in Greece with many singularities: Here winegrowers cultivate indigenous varieties only, none of the international. They don’t sulfurate nor do they use the same pesticides as in other areas, because the volcano, as alive, emits sulfur and essentially sterilizes the entire root system and the soil with natural vulcanization. Moreover, the climate is very dry, there is never rain, and in limited moisture, bacteria and fungi won’t grow.
The vines that are grown in Santorini today can be 50 or 60 years old, but they never clear their vineyards, at least not at the frequency this happens elsewhere. They multiply the vines by layering or cutting branches, they plant them and make new plants. That means, that the DNA of the vineyard is the same for at least 300 years now. In 1800 during the Venetian period, when Santorini was the third naval power in Greece, in their commercial trips they also brought plants. But, even foreign varieties that exist today in Santorini, named “xenoloa”, after the second and third generation are already adapted to the uniqueness of the land and are now considered local.
The original variety of Santorini cultivated for thousands of years is the Assyrtiko. It is worth noting that although the island was destroyed by a volcano eruption in 1600, an area now called Prophet Elias, remained intact and in this area there were vineyards. So, Santorini is a living vines museum.
Wineries in Santorini
In Santorini operate thirteen wineries, of which about 10 are able to be visited. You don’t need to pay any entrance, except from the “Museum of Wine – Winery Koutsogiannopoulos” where, because it works as a museum too, the entrance comes about 6 euros. As a museum it has exhibits since 1600. As a winery, it has been operating for 50 years.
However, there is a winery which we could actually say that it is a living “museum”, since it has been operating continuously since 1836. The «Canava Roussos» is the oldest active winery in Santorini. It’s owned by a family and has not changed owners for 170 years. This sixth generation of winemakers specializes in aged wines. From 8 labels, only one is last year’s harvest. The other is 4-5 years old, which means, they have aged four to five years in a barrel or a bottle before they hit the market.
When you come to the winery, they teach you about the history of wine-making in Santorini, because they believe, it is good for the world to know. With this in mind they do not charge entry and tours. Even if you don’t want to shop, at least you get the information. You learn about the tools, what each one does, you learn about winemaking and tasting. How to taste wines, combinations with food, how to hold the wine glass, what wine accessories it is worth to have, how wine is aged, and how can you age your own bottled wine at home, in your personal cellar.
Vinsanto wine in Santorini.
How will you age the Vinsato wine, you have bought in Santorini, properly? Vinsanto is a sweet wine and sweet wines are aged standing and not sideways, as one would expect. We usually place the bottle of wine sideways to age, so that the cork doesn’t dry and shrink resulting in oxygen to pass and spoil the wine. But, this applies to dry wines. Alternatively, in the sweet wines like Vinsanto, because they contain sugars, there is more moisture in the environment between wine and cork. Also, because of the sugars, the volume of wine inside the bottle varies from winter to summer, as the wine is inflated and deflated. So if you’ve got it lying down, not only will the cork get wet, but it is likely to soak or even be moved resulting in getting pushed outwards, creating a pass for the air, something that would spoil your wine.