Challenges demanding long-term strategic investment
At one of the most challenging harvests in decades for Santorini, the scientific rigor of Domaine Sigalas’ viticulture team is leading the sustainable way.
The 2023 harvest in Santorini has been full of challenges in terms of weather conditions, resulting in one of the smallest in volume productions in decades. Data recorded demonstrates that climate change has started showing its teeth forcing the renowned heroic viticulture and the unique heritage landscapes of the Cycladic Island to face yet another critical and complex hazard.
“The preservation of the viticultural tradition in the new climate reality is the crucial bet”, according to Stratos Xyrafis, member of Domaine Sigalas Viticulturist team. “The scientific knowledge can work as a shield to the unique Santorinian viti-vini heritage, together with innovation and local vine growers’ empirical wisdom passed down generation upon generation. The synthesis of all those elements with respect, mindfulness and realism is the way forward that drives our work and systematic investment at Domaine Sigalas”.
CONDITIONS MET IN SANTORINI THROUGH THE YEAR
Weather in Santorini during the 2022-2023 growing season was characterized by mild winter temperatures and drought. Rainfall did not exceed 190mm, while the average level on the island during the last 20 years had been 320mm; It is worth noting that 320mm was recorded last year as well, following 2 years of remarkably low rainfall. Still, rain distribution was key.
Rainfall distribution period lasted from October to June in 2023 (190mm of rain in 9 months), compared to the 320mm in 7 months (October to April) recorded in the previous season. As shown on the chart, equally interesting is the comparison with the last 20-year average when the rain distribution followed a rather typical seasonal climax, peaking during winter. That has not been the case of this season that displayed a discontinuous pattern; Ιn addition, due to the rain in May and June, there was a need for plant protection.
Spring was cool with the typical strong winds that almost every year cause damage to the sensitive developmental stage. It must be highlighted that on 23 April hail hit the southern parts of the island, disrupting the production of the region to a significant extent. The northern parts from where our major produce is created were not affected by the phenomenon.
Summer was characterized by two long heatwaves, peaking on the 15 and 23 July respectively, leading to further decrease of production and affecting the northern parts of the island as well.
All those conditions resulted in a production drop between 50 and 90% depending on the area. Consequently, grape prices have risen by more than 25% compared to 2022.
2023 HARVEST FOR DOMAINE SIGALAS
In the area of Oia, from where we acquire the grapes for our Domaine, quality has maintained high levels.
In the context of the extreme weather conditions met in Oia (heatwaves), environmentally friendly techniques were implemented to protect the plants and reduce heat stress. We chose to implement them widely in our area, managing to limit the impact of the severe phenomena to a considerable extent, preserving grape quality.
Due to the conditions met, there was a late ripening of the grapes, while harvest took place gradually, starting from the vine blocks of lower altitude.
At Domaine Sigalas, our harvest began on 16 August with the varieties of Athiri, Assyrtiko and Mavrotragano, followed by Mandilaria on 30 August; On 2 September we received the first Aidani grapes.
FIRST QUALITY ASSESSMENT FOR DOMAINE SIGALAS 2023 VINTAGE
The quality of the grapes arrived at our winery has been evaluated between “very good and exceptional” (phenolics, aromas), while the rigorous sorting of the fruits remains non-negotiable for our Domaine
The first samples show “quality features that meet Sigalas high standards” according to Sara Iakovidou, our Domaine’s oenologist, “despite the fact that 2023 has been a year of great challenges in the vineyard due to climate change”.