Enjoyed the read? Don't miss our next article!

* indicates required
08 August 2023

2023 harvest in Santorini: Trouble in paradise part 2

By Yiannis Karakasis MW

The dramatic island of Santorini, known for its dazzling views and singular terroir, is gearing up fast for the 2023 vintage. And while the Santorini brand is continuously flying higher, there's no denying that this vintage is particularly challenging. From an irregular weather pattern to significantly reduced yields, the 2023 Santorini vintage tests local winemakers' resilience. Yet, amidst the hardships, there is a glimmer of hope for exceptional Santorini wines that will intrigue the world.

The journey to the 2023 vintage began with a mild winter, followed by an intense drought that put vines to the test. Spring brought some positive signs, but it wasn't without its difficulties, with two occurrences of frost threatening the fragile buds. Then, on April 22, the island faced a devastating hailstorm, which caused further damage to the vineyards. As if that weren't enough, the summer brought a scorching heatwave that lasted for fifteen days, exacerbating the already challenging conditions. ''This is a vintage that climate change showed its teeth,'' comments Stellios Boutaris from Ktima Sigalas. 

Yields on the Decline

One of the most significant impacts of these weather challenges has been on yields. Matthew Argyros from Estate Argyros estimates yields to be close to 1000 tonnes, significantly even less than the infamous 2019 that saw approximately 1200 tonnes of total production. ''Mainly due to the severe hailstorm, yields will be decreased 40 to 70% compared to 2022 depending on the site,'' he says. He remains cautiously optimistic about quality but acknowledges that the road ahead will be tough. ''The issue of water scarcity is a pressing concern for many growers, as the lack of rain combined with extreme heat necessitates an installation of a proper irrigation system for the survival of the vines,'' he concludes. Ηe expects the harvest to begin for Assyrtiko grapes between August 12 -16. 

Another producer, Spyros Chryssos from Akra Chryssos, reflecting on the situation, highlights that yields in the areas of Pyrgos and Megalochori are expected to be 50-60% down and that quality may be affected despite all the work in the vineyard. Such a sharp decline emphasizes the vulnerability of vineyards when faced with adverse weather.

The Price Riddle

As the world becomes increasingly enamoured with the wines of Santorini, the increased demand brings another challenge – pricing. Given the expected decrease in overall yields, it is very likely that wineries may need to adjust their prices to reflect the scarcity of this year's vintage and the probable higher prices for grapes. In this beat, it will not be surprising for introductory Santorinis to climb above 30 euros retail price in the domestic market.

''We can expect an increase on both the prices of grapes and, by extension, the wines of this year's harvest,'' comments Stellios Boutaris, adding that Santorini can command high prices on par with the world's greatest wines since it is one of them. ''It simply requires an even greater effort from all producers, individually and collectively, to speak and promote the wines''.

Apostolos Moudrichas from Anhydrous Winery states that the first hurdle is to find grapes. ''Then we can talk about prices. In Pyrgos, where many of our growers are based, yields may be 50-70% lower, potentially making the search for quality fruit challenging,'' he says. As the conversation around preserving Santorini's vineyards and maintaining the island's brand power continues, there may be discussions about pricing structures to reflect quality and scarcity. Ηe expects the harvest to begin this week.

Despite the hardships, there are still high expectations that the 2023 Santorini vintage may deliver exceptional wines. The winemakers' unwavering dedication and skill may shine through, even in adversity. With meticulous vineyard management and judicious harvesting, the potential for outstanding wines still exists.

Enjoyed the read? Don't miss our next article!

* indicates required
Post your comment
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.