Last year, I noticed more and more buzz about wines coming out of regions under the shadow of a volcano. What could be more exciting than a region growing wines out of ash and molten lava? Talk about 'survival of the fittest' for grapes that have to strain to thrive...these wines are super cool as they are HOT right now.
If you are looking to try these exciting wines, here is your guide to which Volcanoes have vineyards on their slopes:
Mount Etna, Sicily: Along with Santorini, this region in Sicily, with the highest active volcano in Europe. Its soils range from basalt pebbles and pumice to black ash. Fun wine from Mount Etna: Benanti, “Rovittello” Etna Rosso 2005 ($78) The Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio grapes are from 80-year-old vines on the north side of Mount Etna at about 2,500 feet elevation. The wine spends a year aging in small oak barrels and 10 months in the bottle prior to release. This is a generous and fruity wine, spicy, red berry with a good tannic structure such that it needs some time in the cellar to soften its tannins.
Mt Vesuvius; Campania, Italy: This southern Italian region is where Mt Vesuvius last erupted in 1944. Its ash and pumice form the soils in Irpinia, 30 miles away. Fun wine to try: Terredora DiPaolo Taurasi Fatica Contadina 2008; rich blackberry, black currant, spice, tobacco, dark plum, with great minerality.
Soave, Italy: Garganega grapes, planted on the band of ancient volcanic soils in this region, produce weightier, richer whites loaded with mineral sensations. Fun wine recommendation: 2015 Pieropan Calvarino Soave Classico, Veneto, Italy is a salty, lemony white with racing acidity and a long mineral finish.
The Azores, Portugal: This archipelago of volcanic islands lies in the Atlantic Ocean. Most vineyards are on Pico, an island on which vines grow in small corrals made of black basalt stones making for a stunning wine scape and terrior. Fun wine recommendation: 2015 Azores Wine Company Verdelho O Original. Mineral and salty attack, it has the grape varietals and Azorean Terroir matrix, but with a much more exuberant, tropical aroma of the Azorean pineapple and passion fruit, fresh fruit with acidity. It’s not the Verdelho-Gouveio, it’s not the Verdelho-Verdejo, it is the Verdelho-Verdelho, the Original.
The Canary Islands, Spain: This archipelago lies 60 miles off Morocco but belongs to Spain. Tenerife’s 12,198-foot Mount Teide is the highest volcano. Some vines are planted in lava cracks, others in mini-craters in black basalt. Fun wine recommendation: Bodega Tajinaste Canary Islands Traditional 2017 ($19).
Somlo, Hungary: Here, the volcanoes are no longer active, however, violent eruptions millennia ago left behind spectacular basalt deposits all over the country. Somlo, a single volcanic butte known as the “forgotten hat of God,” produces powerful, distinctive whites. A fun wine to try: 2015 Meinklang 'Sziklafeher', Somlo, Hungary. It's a blend of Juhfark, Harslevelu, Olaszriesling. Super funky, fun, wine nerds wine.
Santorini, Greece: This picture-perfect tourist haven in the Aegean sea produces some of the best examples of volcanic wines. Vines are planted in fields of pumice, ash, and volcanic rock. Fun wine recommendation: 2017 Domaine Sigalas Santorini Assyrtiko, Aegean Islands, Greece. Clean, refreshing, high mineral, saline, citrus fruits...great with seafood.