Exploring Volcanic Wines: Insights from Fred Nijhuis' Workshop03-11-2022
Wine professionals, connoisseurs, and bloggers gathered on a bright day for Fred Nijhuis' workshop on exploring volcanic wines. This workshop was organized by Volcanic Agriculture of Europe and the communications agency WellCom with the intention of learning more about the influences of volcanic soil on food and drink.
Fred, an experienced sommelier and wine educator, led us through a hands-on exploration of some of the world's most unique wines, many of which are made in Europe's volcanic wine regions. At the start of the workshop, Fred talked about the benefits of volcanic wines, focusing on their strong minerality, unique acidity, and lively aromas. He discussed how the terroir—the soils and climates—of these regions provide ideal conditions for producing these unique wines. With Fred's guidance, we tasted and discussed the different wines and cheeses, learning what made them so special. By the end of the workshop, everyone had gained a newfound appreciation for and knowledge of volcanic wines and left feeling excited to explore more in the future.
What are wines from volcanic terroir?
The name says it all: wines from volcanic terroir are wines grown on volcanic soil. This can be soil from an active volcano or soil with volcanic material even if the volcano is no longer active. This soil composition can add unique flavors and qualities to the wines. Each soil is unique, which makes every wine from a volcanic terroir unique in taste.
Wines from volcanic terroir can be found in places like Etna or Vesuvius, parts of Chile, the U.S., Santorini, Germany, and the Canary Islands. As long as a volcano has ever erupted, the soil can be considered volcanic. So, yes, even Germany can produce wines from volcanic terroir!
What do volcanic wines taste like?
These types of wines have a few common characteristics. They can make your mouth water and contain a saltiness that Peter Klosse, the flavor professor, describes as "filmy salt." Additionally, they usually have high acidity and a faint but pleasant bitterness.
When it comes to their flavor, volcanic wines have a savory quality and a full-bodied yet light texture. They also have a mix of fruity and earthy/spicy notes. Furthermore, since the soils are not affected by phylloxera, there are still indigenous grapes that are being grown in these regions. This is something we should be thankful for!
Characteristics of volcanic wines
Many volcanic wines have the same qualities because they are made from grapes that were grown in volcanic soil and in an environment that is also volcanic. Even though each grape and wine is a little different depending on where it comes from, there are a few main traits that can be traced back to the volcanic soils and weather where the grapes were grown. Volcanic soils often contain iron, magnesium, potassium, and other minerals that can be detected in the wines. The soils can also be high in iron, which can give the wines a distinct earthiness as well as a metallic taste. A few of the minerals and metals in volcanic soils are also known to enhance the color of the grapes, so volcanic wines often display a deep color. This makes it a unique type of wine.
How terroir, soils and climates of volcanic regions affect production
The soils and climates of volcanic regions are perfect for growing grapes that will produce volcanic wines. While these grapes can be grown in other regions, the soils in these areas are better suited to holding minerals and metals that help enrich the wine. The main difference between volcanic wines and those from other regions is the higher mineral content. People often say that volcanic wines are "more mineral-driven." This means that the high mineral content makes the flavors and smells of these wines more intense and rich. The volcanic soils in these regions are full of minerals that are released during the growth of the grapes. Minerals are taken up by the vines, which then add them to the grapes. This makes a strong wine with a lot of minerality and distinct flavors. The soils of these regions are also often rich in iron, which gives the wines a distinct earthiness as well as a metallic taste.
Exploring Volcanic Wine Regions
There are a few important volcanic wine regions to check out, and each has its own style and taste. While volcanic wines are actually quite rare, there are a select few regions that produce them, which makes exploring these regions an exciting adventure.
Soave (“swah-vay”) is an Italian white wine made of Garganega (“gar-GAN-neh-gah”) grapes grown around the medieval village of Soave in Northern Italy. Soave wine is known for its melon and orange zest flavors as well as its ability to improve with age. As good as Soave has become in recent years, the region is still very undervalued.
Experiencing different types of volcanic wines
We discovered how diverse the flavors, aromas, and textures can be while sampling a collection of unique volcanic wines at Fred Nijhuis' workshop. This is one of the most exciting aspects of discovering volcanic wines. There are so many different flavors and textures to try that it's difficult to pick just one. Here are some of the most popular volcanic wines that were talked about at Fred's workshop.
We sampled white and sparkling wines from Santorini and Soave in various flights. For me, the most noticeable difference between Santoniri and Soave wines was the intensity of acidity and salty flavors. The wines from Santorini were softer and had a more pleasant bitterness than the Soave wines.
I really loved the wines from Santorini, as I'm a huge fan of the Greek islands. I really felt the warm summer in the glass Assyrtiko by Gaia, Wild Fermentent 2021, which had a little yeast in the nose, soft acidity, medium toast, apple, peach, vanilla, and silty pebbles.
Summary of workshop and what participants took away
We all had a new understanding of and appreciation for these distinctive wines by the time Fred Nijhuis' workshop on volcanic wines was over. We looked into different kinds of volcanic grapes, found out what made them unique, tried a variety of unusual wines, and visited some of the volcanic regions where they grow. Discovering new flavors and textures while exploring the world of wine is exciting and unique, especially when tasting volcanic wines. Due to the unique minerals, high acidity, and strong aromas found in volcanic wines, each sip is a unique flavor and texture experience. Volcanic soils, which emit minerals that the grapes then absorb, are used to grow the grapes used to make volcanic wines. The wines become distinctive, flavorful, and intense thanks to these minerals.
Much appreciation to Fred for setting up this fantastic workshop!
More information about Fred: www.fred-nijhuis.nl
More information about Vulcanic Agriculture of Europe: volcanicagricultureofeurope.com