If you are feeling brave, we’ve got the bottle!
When we set up Vin Cognito three years ago, the very first wine we bought was a Listán Blanco from the volcanic island of Tenerife. Looking back on it now, it was a bold move for a new company, a Sancerre might have been safer, but we weren’t trying to be quirky just for the sake of it. It was a wine that thrilled us to the core, bristling with mineral aromas and intense citrus flavours tinged by a wispy smokiness that made us think of how a Puligny-Montrachet from Domaine Leflaive might taste if the vines grew on the side of a volcano, as these did. Since then we have added a wide variety of ‘volcanic’ wines to our list, from Crete to the Canary Islands, without realising that a trend was gathering behind us, like surfers calmly unaware of a huge wave approaching. In the last couple of years, sommeliers and wine writers have been banging the volcanic drum and wine-lovers have either been embracing the trend or childishly protesting that they spotted it first. Ahem.
One of the most exciting things about ‘volcanic’ wines, apart from the exciting flavours of endemic grape varieties grown on porous, mineral-rich soil, is that many of the vines are still on their original roots, unlike almost all of Europe’s vines, which have been grafted onto American rootstock, due to the phylloxera bug that gnawed its way through almost all of Europe’s vineyards in the late 19th Century. The sandy, pumice- and basalt-rich soils found in volcanic vineyards, however, resist against phylloxera, so the combination of original, age-old vines, volcanic terroir and proximity to the sea or ocean lends itself to wines that have mouthwatering acidity, exuberant aromas, a maritime salinity and a flinty minerality, not to mention counterintuitive longevity. We thought we would put together six different examples for you to try, either as a case of twelve (2 bottles of each) or a case of six (1 bottle of each). Below you will find wonderful examples from Sicily, the Azore Islands, Santorini, Sardinia and Tenerife.
If you are unfamiliar with the style, it’s probably worth mentioning that first impressions don’t count here. Don’t be surprised if the flavours elicit a quizzical frown initially. They are wines that haven’t been contrived to please you at first taste, the minerality usually greets you before the fruit, but keep going back to the glass, because new aromas and flavours are released as the wine relaxes.
“Volcanic wines are highly terroir-driven and should be enjoyed in this context.” - Decanter Magazine