8 best volcanic wines
An eruption of flavour is guaranteed with our selection of wines grown in volcanic soil
The volcanic wine movement has been bubbling away in wine circles for a while now, but 2018 is tipped to be the year that it erupts into the mainstream.
While expert opinion is divided as to the scientific effect of soil that has seen volcanic activity, in terms of flavour there are some particularly alluring qualities to wines made from grapes grown in the mineral-rich, high-ash soils around volcanoes.
Mineral flavours, spicy notes, slight smokiness, high acidity, umami savouriness and rich earthy flavours tend to abound, giving both reds and whites rich and complex tastes that swirl with intrigue. At their best, they practically explode on the palate.
While lovers of volcanic soil grapes have been knocking back the good stuff in restaurants and wine bars for a little while, there’s now finally a good selection for consumers to order online too. Great news for wine drinkers who want to try out something a bit different, without committing to restaurant prices.
Here are some suggestions to get the juices flowing.
Vinupetra, Etna Rosso, de Aetna, 2014, £31.00, Vorrei
This natural wine from Etna is less easy on the wallet, but worth every penny. A blend of two local grapes, nerello mascalese and nerello cappuccio, its dark ripe plum and cherry aromas are balanced with freshness and juiciness leading to a complex palate of ripe fruit, exotic spices, rich leathery tannins and a long finish. Made using traditional natural methods, the wine is racked and bottled following the phases of the moon. A clear favourite, if you don’t mind spending a bit — maybe one to save to share with someone special.
Sol Lucet Koshu, 2015, £14, M&S
If you thought Japanese wine drinking was all about sake, think again. The country’s koshu grape variety is increasingly making a name for itself outside its borders and this searingly fresh and citrussy wine from the Yamanashi region is a perfect example of why. The volcanic soil it’s grown in, on the southwestern slopes of Mount Fuji, as well as a climate that varies between extremes of hot and cold, is responsible for a crisp, clean acidity and a flavour reminiscent of another Japanese favourite: yuzu. A slight nutty creaminess ensures there’s enough complexity to carry all that citrus, but this is a wine to enjoy rather than overthink.
Nerominiera, Isola dei Nuraghi, Enrico Esu, Carbonia, Sardinia, 2014, £9.98, Berry Bros & Rudd
This 100 per cent Carignano comes from a small family-run producer in the south-western corner of Sardinia. The vines grow in the former coal fields of Carbonia and were planted in 1958. Due to the limited number of bottles produced, the family still use the original ungrafted vines. Rich and fruity with bold, ripe red berries and a saline touch you can almost taste the sun-baked Sardinian soils. Excellent value and the perfect addition to a Mediterranean dinner party.
Craft 3 Malbec, 2017, £10, M&S
In the case of this wine, three is the magic number. It’s made from grapes grown across a trio of high altitude vineyards in Mendoza and has been crafted by winemaking threesome Gerd Stepp, Emma Dawson and Jeneve Williams especially for M&S. The result is a full-bodied, fruity number that exudes malbec’s characteristic blackberry and black cherry flavours but also benefits from a touch more acidity thanks to chalky, volcanic soils, making it fresh and feisty rather than too plummy. For a volcanic wine – and one with a bold flavour – its £10 price tag is a bit of a bargain.
Etna Rosso, de Aetna, Terra Costantino, 2014, £19.95, Jeroboams
Also from Etna, with its fertile soils and sunny climate the region produces some excellent volcanic wines and this one is no exception. Raspberry and pepper notes combine with flavours of floral dried herbs and deep liquorice to make a lively, savoury-tasting wine. Medium-bodied with fine tannins, it drinks well with chicken and game, or just by itself. At almost £20, it’s a special occasion tipple but reasonably priced for a wine of this quality.
Vermentino di Sardegna, Il Roccolo, Natale Verga, Sardinia, 2016, £10, Berry Bros & Rudd
Typically pale in colour, this wine made from a blend of native Italian vermentino and pigato grapes is elegantly perfumed, seeing blossom and ripe fruit flavours mingle with tropical mango and pineapple aromas. A hit of citrus acidity pairs with a good amount of structure to give a rich and viscous mouthfeel making a seriously satisfying sip that’s only enhanced by a mineral, slightly salty tasting finish that brings to mind the rugged soils it has grown in.
Valenti Enrico IV Etna Bianco, 2015, £17.99, Ocado
If any volcanic wine were to actually taste like a volcano, it’s this one. A tantalising tingle of white pepper, searing acidity, a mineral slate-like backbone and fresh fruitiness up front make for an eruptive taste that appears to change and evolve with every sip. It is made from 100 per cent carricante, which is grown exclusively on Etna and as it is made, the wine is allowed to macerate with the grape skins before being fermented with yeast for eight months. The result is a complex, biscuity white that is robust and complex. The high acid levels make it a great food wine, pairing well with stronger seafood, such as crab, or even cheeses. On its own, it could be an opinion divider.
Etna Bianco, de Aetna, Terra Costantino, 2016, £19.95, Jeroboams
This elegant Sicilian made entirely from carricante grapes boasts an alluring medley of smoky flavours, woody aromas, apple and mineral stone-like tastes. Creamy and thick tasting, it is also characteristically high on acidity making it at once rich and refreshing. All in all, a complex and moreish winner of a wine that proves – whatever the science behind it – volcanic wines have something special going on.
Verdict: volcanic wines
From the reds it’s hard to beat the Vinupetra, but if you are looking for something more pocket-friendly the Nerominiera is great value. If it’s a white you’re after then the Valenti Enrico IV is an explosive-flavoured favourite.
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