But there is another reason that the
hillsides of Soave are deemed to be special
by local growers: Many of the hillside soils
are volcanic, the product of ancient erup-
tions that came at a time when most of
northern Italy was still under water.
Wine regions such as Soave, where all
or part of their soils come from such erup-
tions, are not rare, but they are far from the
norm. Among the better known ones are
the vineyards around Mount Vesuvius in
southern Italy, on Sicily and in the Greek
Islands, especially Santorini. Parts of the
Baden region of Germany and Tokaji in
Hungary are volcanic, but there are few ex-
amples in France and Spain.
In New Zealand, a part of the Gisborne
region on the North Island has been af-
fected by both ancient and recent volcanic
blasts, and, in the U.S., parts of the Pacific
Northwest were formed by volcanos or oth-
erwise covered by volcanic ash.
Four years ago, the ruling Soave Con-
sorzio Tutela decided to draw some of
these regions together by staging an annual
conference, called Vulcania, to conduct
scientific symposia and to have compara-
tive tastings of white wines grown in other
volcanic regions around the world.
Palpable on the
Palate
Can we actually “taste” volcanic minerals
from grapes grown in volcanic soils? Sci-
entific studies firmly say “no”—at least not
directly. Dr. Carole Meredith, co-owner
of Lagier Meredith Vineyard in Napa Val-
ley, is a former member of the viticulture
and enology faculty at the University of
California at Davis. She explains the scien-
tific rationale: “Plant roots do not take up
complex soil minerals like chalk, slate, lava,
Is there a special white magic for wines
coming from black soils? No and yes.
by roger morris
v
olcan
o
u n d e r t h e
Donnafugata grows Zibibbo
grapes both in Sicily at the
Contessa Entellina estate
(left) and on the island of
Pantelleria (right), where
volcanic soils impart more
aromatics.
A
sk anyone in Soave where the best wines are made, and surely
they will point to the hillside vineyards above this small town east
of Verona in northern Italy. This is hardly surprising. In most wine-
growing regions, hillside grapes are the most prized. They enjoy
enhanced sun exposure and drainage; plus the elevation draws in cooling
winds to modulate the daytime heat on ripening grapes.
Photography by Anna Pakula
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