It is common knowledge that volcanic soil promotes lush growth and is much sought after by producers and growers of a variety of foods.
Volcanic soil consists of a broad range of elements that promote vigourous and abundant growth of plant matter. It is common to see lush fields of market gardens, orchards, rice fields etc. at the base of volcanoes being farmed by those well aware of the long term benefits of volcanic matter in soil. Lava enriches the soil but can take decades to break down, becoming rich in minerals and ideal for growing an abundance of foods.
There are a variety of wine regions in the world benefiting from such volcanic material, and these regions are becoming increasingly recognised for their volcanic origins and are known collectively as “volcanic wines”.
The volcanic wine regions of the world are located from New Zealand to the US to Italy and eastern Europe, and many more in between. Another wine tour to add to the list when there is time and money available! A couple of volcanic wine regions are Lanzarote and Santorini.
What is impressive with both these island wine growing regions is the sheer labour intensive vineyard construction adopted to harness the benefits of the soil, while protecting them from the harsh weather conditions.
For example, Lanzarote is a wind swept island near the West Africa coast with a treeless landscape, appearing more like a moonscape, with multi coloured dark volcanic soils and craters. Yet, in this inhospitable place, grapevines are flourishing. The spongy ash, combined with other beneficial climatic conditions, are producing award winning wines. Each grapevine is planted in a shallow hole protected by a man-made wall of volcanic rocks. No trellising is used. This construction protects the vines from the winds, while ensuring the all important sun reaches the fruit for ripening. The spongy ash has unique properties, absorbing water quickly, retaining moisture, and acting as an insulator to maintain a consistent soil temperature. The history and ingenuity adds to the experience of the volcanic wines of Lanzarote. Wines that are well worth seeking out.
The volcanic soil of Santorini is rich in minerals, producing wines with a low pH and high acidity. This island is exposed to both harsh, yet beneficial weather conditions, with very little rain. The cooling winds protect the vines from disease, and the lack of clay reduces the risk of phylloxera. The wine growers have adapted to the conditions, where grapes have been grown for hundreds of years. You don’t find trellising in the vineyards here either. The vines are grown low to the ground without support and are woven in continous circles to form a basket shape. Over time, the yield from the vines slows to the point where they need to be pruned back to the base of the vine, and the process begins again and new baskets are formed. Some of the vines of Santorini are hundreds of years old, producing some of the most sought after volcanic wines in the world.
The main characteristic of volcanic wine is the savoury minerality that is most distinctive. As with all wines, knowing a little bit of the story behind them makes you appreciate them a whole lot more.