The volcanic effect on wines
In Italy, there’s a connective thread that unites the Euganean Hills in Veneto to Lake Bolsena in Lazio, the Phlegrean Fields near Naples to the Sicilian Island of Pantelleria. It is the presence of active or passive volcanic craters: the so-called “volcanic effect” makes many lands of the Peninsula particularly rich and fertile, capable of expressing excellent wines of great personality, different from any produced on chalky or alluvial soil and characterized by a pronounced aromatic framework, minerality and acidity, as well as being endowed with a remarkable ageing potential. There are over 17.000 hectares throughout Italy boasting appellations of volcanic origin: a wealth of biodiversity that extends from north to south, from Veneto to Sicily.
Veneto: Campo Vulcano in Verona Province
In Verona province there is a dense network of hills planted to Soave DOC vines, produced with at least 70% of Garganega grapes. One of the most convincing versions of this noble white Italian wine is the Campo Vulcano: a fresh and tangy bouquet, a savoury mouthfeel and a symbolic name for one of the most prestigious labels by the firm of I Campi di Flavio Prà. Just a few kilometres to the east stands the Regional Park of the Euganean Hills, famous for its spa centres and cone-shaped hills, a unique volcanic phenomenon whose geological heritage is reflected with vigour and elegance in the wines produced by Ca’ Lustra – Zanovello this being equally true of reds like the Natìo and the Fior d’Arancio Passito wine.
Tuscany: wines from the “tuff town”
When travelling in the inland areas of Tuscany, a visit to Pitigliano in Grosseto province is mandatory. The “tuff town” is one of the most beautiful old towns of Italy and, here too, it is the terroir that gives it the edge. The soil is particularly rich in minerals and lies on tuff or igneous rock, providing the perfect conditions for savoury volcanic wines with characteristic notes of flint stone. Two such examples are Serment and Brillèro, the two Tuscan IGP white wines (of which there are very few bottles) produced by Poggio Concezione, a small winery that adopts organic farming methods.
Campania: From Vesuvius to Ischia Island
Our journey takes us on to the region of Campania. As far back as ancient times, the monks from a monastery situated on the slopes of Vesuvius used to produce Lacryma Christi, which obtained the DOC appellation in 1983. But one of the most remarkable expressions of volcanic wine-growing is to be found on the Island of Ischia, right in front of Naples, where the vine planted terraces, perched on slopes overlooking the sea, assume a fairytale look. The wine to taste here, for its fresh citrusy notes, is Ischia Biancolella Tenuta Frassitelli di Casa D’Ambra.
Sicily: Etna Volcano and Pantelleria
In east Sicily, we find Italy’s other most famous volcano, Etna, the mountain affectionately referred to as “Idda” in the local dialect, where quality wine-growing has really taken off in the last decade. The wines bear such names as Profumo di Vulcano, like the one signed by Federico Graziani, former sommelier of the Milanese restaurant Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia, in a small Vineyard at Feudo di Mezzo, the same district that Eruzione 1614 comes from, produced by the renowned firm Planeta, which decided to invest in these black lands in 2008. The name on the label for both the white wine made from carricante grapes and the red from nerello mascalese, evokes the longest eruption ever recorded, which lasted ten years. An ideal wine tour must comprise Benanti, Girolamo Russo e Cottanera a firm founded in the nineties which can now count on 65 hectares of vine-planted land mainly given over to the oldest autochthonous cultivars. The Etna Rosso Riserva Zottorinoto is spicy, deep and as ebullient as the land it comes from, located at an altitude of 780-820 metres above sea level, on the northerly slopes of the volcano, where 60 year old Nerello Mascalese vines are grown on lava fields and the vineyards are covered with a layer of Etna’s dust.
Last stop, Pantelleria, the volcanic island of ancestral fame situated 110 km south west of Sicily and just 70 km north of Tunisia. Its sandy soil is of lava origin and the vineyards here, low bush trained within hollows in the manner typical of Pantelleria – may even be as old as 100 years. This traditional vine growing method is quite heroic, so much so that it has been included in the Unesco intangible heritage list. The Ben Ryé from Donnafugata, an extraordinary Passito wine of Pantelleria produced from Zibibbo grapes, encapsulates all the fragrances, apricots, dry figs and herbs, the wind brings with it when it blows gustily through the clusters.