flint, etc.,” she says. “Those are large mol-
ecules, and plant roots take up only very,
very small molecules.” So, she says, there is
“no flint or chalk in wine!”
However, she explains, “The flavor of
grapes and wine do reflect the physical set-
ting of the vineyard. But it’s an indirect ef-
fect. The composition of the soil—chemical
components, soil acidity, particle size—cer-
tainly does influence the physiology of the
plant and the composition of the fruit that
the plant produces.”
These influences can result in notice-
able taste differences, especially when com-
paring “volcanic wines” to those they make
from nearby vineyards that are not volcanic
in composition.
Konrad Salwey, proprietor of Weingut
Salwey in Germany’s Baden region, grows
grapes on both loess-lime soils and on vol-
canic soils containing thephrite and leucite.
He is certain there is a strong influence. “I
taste [wines from volcanic soil] as less fruity
and more salty,” he says. “They are more
able to balance high acidity or high alcohol
or high sugar.”
Sofia Perpera, a enologist working on
the Greek island of Santorini, believes that
the soils of that extinct volcano are “abso-
lutely” reflected in the bottle. Wines made
from the popular white grape Assyrtiko in
other areas of Greece, she says, are “less
mineral and a bit more aromatic.”
Véronique Drouhin-Boss produces Pinot
Noir and Chardonnay both in Burgundy
and at Domaine Drouhin in Oregon,
where the soils are volcanic in origin, un-
like those at Drouhin properties on the
Côte d’Or and in Chablis. With the Or-
egon Pinot, Drouhin Boss says, “What I
have noticed over the past 24 years is that
consistently—no matter the clone of Pinot
or rootstock—the wines show a lovely spici-
ness. Also, the tannins are excellent—round
and velvety.”
In northern Italy, Giovanni Ponchia,
enologist for the Soave consortium, says,
“The basalt here cooled quickly, because
we were under the seas at the time
of eruption, so we are probably
‘more volcanic’ than most areas.
In fact, the hills of Soave were
first formed as tropical volcanic
islands.” Today, he says, wines
made from vineyards in the Soave
hills with volcanic soils exhibit a
sense of oiliness on the palate, and
white and tropical fruits, while
those from the chalky areas have
higher acidity.
Of course, not all volcanic soils
are the same, nor are their effects on
growing conditions. James Millton, owner
of Millton Vineyards in the Gisborne re-
gion on New Zealand’s North Island, ex-
plains that his Clos Ste. Anne vineyard has
a base of limestone and sandstone layers
covered with thin coatings of pumice from
eruptions in the Lake Taupo area.
“So as the soil is not totally volcanically
derived—the last volcanic eruption from
Mount Ruapehu was in 1995 when we had
about three centimeters of volcanic ash
over the whole region—we do notice a com-
plex minerality coming from Chardonnay
in this vineyard,” says Millton. “There is a
slight wet-stone character, and the acidity—
malic—is quite pronounced and squeaky,
but more Meursault-ish than Chablis.”
Several different volcanic soils exist
in Mád, the center of the Tokaji region,
where István Touóczi is winemaker for Roy-
al Tokaji. “Some of them have high zeolite
content,” he says, which helps accumulate
water and provide nutrient spots for micro-
organisms. “Many of these soils show nice
mineral smells and tastes, so even sweet
wine at plus 200 grams per liter sugar level
shows these very distinct tastes.”
Southern Italy is well-known for
its volcanoes, dead and alive, and
one that has been interesting to
grape growers is the island of
Pantelleria off the coast of Sicily.
Alessia Panzeca of Donnafugata,
which makes wine there from the
Zibibbo grape, a type of Mosca-
to, says, “In particular, the Zi-
bibbo in Pantelleria is much
more aromatic compared to
that of Sicily, thanks to the pH
of the soil, which is sub-acid, 6.5
or neutral.”
Both Perpera and Millton note that
the proximities of the nearby seas to their
vineyards may have as much effect on
how their wine tastes as the soil. And Dr.
Meredith also says influences other than
soil (e.g., temperature, wind and water
availability) affect a grape’s physiology and
hence its character.
At a tasting of wines from volcanic ar-
eas conducted at the Vulcania 2012 confer-
ence this summer in Soave, most partici-
pants agreed that the wines all had lots of
mineral flavors and more spicy notes than
floral ones. The wines also all seemed to
have good structure. Beyond that, there
was a general reluctance to say that volca-
nic wines had any distinguishing character-
istics separating them from other wines.
“I couldn’t say that I could pick
out which wines were volcanic and
which were not in a blind tasting,” one
participant commented.
Still, if the folks in Soave have contin-
ued success with their concept, we may
someday see “Under the Volcano” sections
on American restaurant wine lists.
Roger Morris, a contributor to
Beverage Media
2006, also writes about wine, food and travel for several
other publications. A resident of Pennsylvania, he and his
photographer wife Ella recently published their second
The Brandywine Book of the Seasons
Volcanic rock
from Germany’s
Baden region.
Veronique Drouhin-Boss
Konrad Salwey
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