While it probably came from Santorini, this famed grape is planted all around Greece. Most producers are very proud of the variety and present it as their flagship wine. Assyrtiko is well suited to Crete’s conditions of high winds and low vigour soils. The style is something between the mineral-driven wines of Santorini and the fruitier styles of mainland Greece. Assyrtiko exhibits shy citrusy aromas while young and only shows its complexity after two to three years of ageing. Its characteristically-high slaty acidity is present also in Cretan Assyrtikos.
It is increasingly found as a single-varietal wine. Still, it is a widely used blending partner to other Cretan wines and is often blended with the indigenous Thrapsathiri or Vilana to boost acidity.
Assyrtiko thrives in poor soils, which naturally limit its vigour and concentrate the flavours. Water stress is not a problem, as the vine can handle the most severe droughts and heat waves. It is also not very susceptible to many grape fungi, like powdery mildew. Growing it is relatively easy and sustainable.
Assyrtiko has been traditionally grown in Crete in Sitia, where there are many older vineyards. However, increasing plantings all over Crete are observed. In the dry, sandy soils of Sitia, it can cope well with heat and water stress and give wines that resemble Santorini Assyrtikos.