My first memories of the magical Greek island of Santorini are from a summer I spent traveling Europe after my graduation from college. I've always been attracted to volcanic geographic features—and Santorini certainly qualifies. It rises from the Aegean today as the remnant of a caldera that exploded more than 3,600 years ago.
That's a roundabout way of saying that Santorini offers some fascinating terroir that produces high-quality white wines. The soils are quick-draining, mostly sandy ash or pumice, and many of the grapevines are planted in a shallow depression that shelters them from incessant winds. The most important grape is the Greek native Assyrtiko, which offers Riesling-like acidity and the richness of better Chardonnays.
Recently, I pulled from my cellar one of the best-priced versions of this distinctive wine, the Boutari Santorini 2006, made by Greece's largest winery company. Boutari's head of enology and viticulture research, Yannis Voyiatzis, is one of Greece's most respected winemakers. He says he barrel ferments the wine in 15 percent to 20 percent new French oak to give it added richness, seeking a balance between oak and fruit."
The wine was still fresh tasting and offered flavors of ripe pear and quince. It also showed a powerful minerality that has grown more impressive since the first time I tasted this wine in summer 2007. It should age nicely for a few more years. I rated it 88 points, non-blind. The current release, the 2007 vintage, shows identical quality and represents Boutari's 20th vintage of this white.
Boutari Santorini 2006 (88, $19)