What are Volcanic Wines?
In the heart of Hungary, where history and terroir intertwine, a remarkable category of wines emerges - Hungarian volcanic wines. These wines bear the unmistakable influence of volcanic soil, creating an unparalleled sensory journey for wine lovers. But what exactly is this fascinating world of volcanic wines?
Volcanic wines are a distinctive category defined by the vineyards' proximity to ancient volcanic activity. These soils are rich in minerals and nutrients, providing a unique foundation for grapevines. The volcanic terroir imparts a character that sets these wines apart, often characterised by vibrant acidity, minerality, and a sense of place.
This 'sense of place' is so distinct and obvious that wine experts and seasoned wine lovers can sometimes tell just after a single sip. But what's the giveaway? It's the signature salty, savoury-sweetness and bright acidity.
Volcanic soil holds several benefits for wine. Its well-draining nature prevents excessive water retention and this as a result, forces grapevine roots to dig deep.
The soil is also rich in iron and minerals that enhances root development and imparts distinct mineral nuances to the wines. Additionally, volcanic soils also retain heat well which aids in the ripening of grapes.
Where to find them?
Hungarian volcanic wines are primarily found in two renowned regions:
Somló and Tokaj. Somló, with its volcanic basalt soils, is home to some of the most iconic volcanic wines in Hungary. Tokaj, known for its sweet Aszú wines, also offers dry volcanic wines from its slopes.
Pockets of volcanic soil can also be found in the Eger region of Hungary, though it's much less common as compared to Somló and Tokaj.
Around the globe, several regions are also celebrated for their volcanic terroir, here are a few notable volcanic wine regions:
The island of Santorini in the Aegean Sea is renowned for its volcanic vineyards. Assyrtiko, a native grape variety, thrives in the porous volcanic soil, producing crisp, mineral-driven white wines with a distinctive saline character.
Italy's Mount Etna is Europe's most active volcano and home to some of Italy's most exciting volcanic wines. Red wines made from Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio grapes exhibit elegance, finesse, and volcanic minerality.
Canary Islands, Spain
Volcanic islands like Tenerife and Lanzarote in the Canary Islands boast vineyards planted on volcanic soils. The wines here, often crafted from indigenous varieties like Listán Negro and Malvasía, express a unique volcanic character.
Oregon, United States
In the Pacific Northwest, Oregon's Willamette Valley is known for its volcanic vineyards. Volcanic wines from this region, predominantly Pinot Noir, possess a distinct balance of fruitiness and earthiness.
The Azores, an archipelago in the North Atlantic Ocean, feature vineyards on volcanic islands. Unique grape varieties such as Verdelho and Arinto thrive in the mineral-rich soils, producing vibrant white wines.