Domaine Sigalas: 2023 Santorini Harvest Report

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

Rigorous Mavrotragano sorting berry by berry at Domaine Sigalas

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”.

2022 Harvest Report

Domaine Sigalas 2022 Harvest team in Santorini
The traditional team photo on the last day of 2022 harvest.

2022, a high quality year for Domaine Sigalas

The conditions

Mild weather, yet with rainfall exceeding the average standards of the last decades: that could summarize the conditions met in Santorini in 2022.

Growing season

It  was characterised by a moderate winter with much higher than usual precipitation. Truly, a rare phenomenon for Santorini and a much-awaited gift for the local vine growers. 320mm of rain was recorded during  October 2021 – mid-March 2022, compared to 190mm over the same period the previous year. Spring was warm without the typical strong winds -a factor that had often caused notable damages to the vines on the sensitive growth stage of the season. All the above led to a late but smooth ripening. Grapes with high acidity level, high quality bunches.

Harvest time

The lack of heatwaves was a key factor this year. Hard to forget the long and extreme temperatures that had battered the yields in 2021. 2022 harvest began gradually starting from the lower altitude vine plots.

Unexpectedly, the usual dry weather was interrupted by a steep rainfal (27mm) on 24 August. Hence, that atypical incident in the heart of the harvest affected a few areas of the island.

The result

The total island’s production was increased by 25-30% compared to the previous vintage. Top-notch quality of the grapes and high demand led to a further price increase by 15%.

Mavrotragano grape at Domaine Sigalas in Santorini

For Domaine Sigalas

The region of Oia -the main source of our grapes- gave fruits of excellent quality thanks to the favourable weather and our vigilance regarding plant protection.

Our harvest calendar progressed as following:

14 August: Assyrtiko and Athiri (white varieties)

15 August: Mavrotragano (red)

27 August: Mandilaria (red)

8 September: Aidani (white)

Our 2022 Vintage

Without doubt, we can talk about a high quality year. The conditions met during the year promoted the formation of outstanding aromas -more intense than in previous years. The flagship Assyrtiko is demonstrating a benchmark typicity with high acidity, structure, long aftertaste and notable ageing potential. Likewise, Mavrotragano is expected to give wines of exceptional vitality, structure and notable lifespan.

Grape selection at Domaine Sigalas in Santorini
Careful grape selection is key for Domaine Sigalas