By Giana Trippi
Metro Wines recently presented a class on wines made from grapes grown on the slopes of volcanoes. What a difference a volcano makes!
John Kerr of The Asheville School of Wine explained the benefits of the blast. Magma is rich in minerals which feed vines and intensify flavor. Weathering breaks the lava into gravel, providing effective drainage that forces the roots to delve down deep. Longer roots can absorb more minerals and connect with a buried stable water supply. This prevents the necessity of irrigating during droughts, which can cause waterlogged, flavorless grapes.
By virtue of the cone shape, volcanoes offer many microclimates and allow soil to drain freely. The ascending elevation of the cone also contributes to vine-growing climates with the higher altitudes providing cooler cultivating areas and warmer zones closer to the base. Add the naturally formed valleys of crescents and peaks and you have a high diversity of microclimates. And blending grapes from these various areas gives the wines extraordinary complexity.
Classic volcano wines have a taut and structured texture, rich in body and flavor yet not heavy, presenting both savory and fruit flavors. This construction and complexity give both red and white wines the ability to age. We presented these four wines as examples of this unique terroir at the class.
Mazzella Biancolella 2022 is grown on the volcanic island of Ischia off the coast of Naples. The extreme conditions of strong wind and volcanic soil made of pumice stone and obsidian suit this indigenous grape. Pale yellow with golden reflections, this medium-bodied wine has an intense nose of white flowers, fresh tropical fruit and spices, with hints of sage. The winery practices organic farming, hand harvesting with minimal intervention. Only 400 cases were produced this year.
Montesole Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio Rosso 2017 is made from piedirosso grapes from the slopes of Vesuvius planted in a mix of volcanic sand and smaller lava/basalt rocks. The nose is red fruit and something wild, smoky and savage. Flavors include pomegranate molasses, fresh red and maraschino cherry, and ripe red plums with a flinty, mineral twang. The palate speaks of scorched, volcanic earth both in flavor and texture, laced with classic piedirosso acidity.
Patria Etna Bianco 2021 Carricante is made from vines grown in land rich in mineral salts, which, with the help of the sun and climate, produce elegant wines with full flavors, soft colors and floral scents. The wine is straw yellow with golden reflections. The nose has notes of aromatic herbs, citrus fruits and flint. The palate is enveloping, fresh and savory, characterized by a noticeable minerality and long finish.
Patria Etna Rosso “Femina” 2021 is 100-percent nerello mascalese grapes. A bouquet of cherries, blueberries and blackberries persists onto the palate where it is met with blackcurrant and oak notes for a full-bodied and velvety wine. Femina is aged one year in oak barrels and one year in bottle before release.
Blast off with volcano wines!
Gina Trippi is the co-owner of Metro Wines, 169 Charlotte Street in Asheville. Committed to the community, Metro Wines offers big-shop selection with small-shop service. Gina can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 828.575.9525.