It may seem a little counterproductive to plant a vineyard on the slopes of an active volcano: Sicily's Mount Etna has erupted four times in the last 10 years and, although further back in time, Mount Vesuvius last erupted in 1944.
But, there's a good reason to plant vineyards in soils of volcanic origin: they produce some of the most intriguing wines. Italy's volcanic soils impart mineral sensations, including flint, crushed rock, and saline, giving depth and complexity to the wines. The resulting wines are structured, taut, savoury, and concentrated in flavour. They are rarely heavy, making them ideal for the cooler early days of spring.
Active volcanoes aren't the only place where volcanic soils exist. These mineral-rich soils also appear on sites of extinct volcanoes and are just as helpful.
When we think of volcanic wines from Italy, the first to spring to mind are those made in the shadow of Mount Etna on the island of Sicily.
But there's much more! In Campania is Mount Vesuvius, where native grapes such as Aglianico, Fiano, and Greco are grown. And the lesser-known Campi Flegrei, a network of craters and other active volcanic structures submerged in the Bay of Naples.
Then there are the extinct volcanoes. Soils from these beasts of destruction and creation are present in the Soave and Soave Classico zones of Veneto; in Alto Piemonte's Lessona, Gattinara, Ghemme, Boca, and Bramaterra; and the Orvieto zone that spans Umbria and Lazio.
Now is a great time to discover these complex beauties.
We've put together a case of six volcanic wines to start you on your journey (also available individually).