Understanding Santorini viticulture is an extraordinary journey to a microcosm of unique actions and traditions. This may be the reason behind its beauty!
From an agronomic point of view, the island has kept ancient farming systems that – thanks to its «isolated» nature – have been secured from contamination and excessive employment of technology, which distinguishes contemporary agricultural practices. The most classic example of Santorini viticulture is kouloura, also called «basket vine training system». But there is also a lesser known «ring» system, called kladeftiko.
What are these two vine training systems?
Kouloura, a “woven” basket.
Kouloura is the most common vine training system in Santorini. The vine is not tied to any pole but is pruned to resemble an alberello. The vine shoots are then intertwined around the trunk and branches to form a circle, acquiring the shape of a basket. The vine grows remarkably close to the ground, at no more than 10-20 centimeters.
This training system reduces waste of water supply, ensures greater exposure of the leaves to the sun and lesser need for phytosanitary treatments. Kouloura also allows Santorini winegrowers to protect the grapes from the winds, which can become particularly strong. The varieties cultivated using this technique are white Assyrtiko, Aidani and Aithiri, as well as red Mavrotragano and Mandilaria.
Kladeftiko, the «bush» system
The vines are also pruned to resemble an alberello with the kladeftiko training system, but unlike kouloura, the final shape looks like a bush. The trunks reach a height between 20 to 30 cm, and pruners leave 3-5 shoots per vine stock. The shoots are tied around the branches, forming small rings similar to bracelets hanging vertically above the ground. Late pruning and tying are carried out to delay budding. Kladeftiko is used in areas that are less exposed to winds since the system is more sensitive. This training method provides better aeration and ensures healthier growing conditions for the grapes because the fruits are positioned higher from the ground. However, the vines and bunches are more exposed to the sun and, especially, to the strong winds that blow on the island from dusk until dawn. Kladeftiko is not applied to all varieties grown on the island since some of them have fragile shoots. This may explain the reason kladeftiko is mainly used for the cultivation of Assyrtiko, which has highly flexible shoots.