15 wines for 15 years with Vulcania and ViniMilo

Usual appointment with volcanic wines from all over Italy, with a conference and tasting to recount the first fifteen years of the Volcanic Wines network.

The idea came from afar, precisely 15 years ago, and it could only start with a volcanic character like Aldo Lorenzoni, then director of the Consorzio Tutela Vini Soave. At the time, no one had yet thought of lumping together wines from volcanic soils, yet in Italy we are so rich in territories of volcanic origin. With Soave as the leader, a format of tastings preceded by conferences with the involvement of personalities from the scientific world was initiated. Soave was joined by Lessini Durello, Colli Euganei, and Gambellara, as far as Veneto is concerned, and then Pitigliano in Tuscany, Tuscia-crossing Lazio and Umbria-then Campi Flegrei, Vesuvius, and occasionally Ischia in Campania, and then again the Castelli Romani, Vulture, and, of course, Etna and the Aeolian Islands.

Some confusion has arisen with the names: first Vulcania, disappeared for a few years and now returned, then Volcanic Wines now Volcanic Wines, but in any case “the value of Volcanic Wines, of which the Soave Consortium is the leader, lies in its longevity and ability to renew itself and continue to grow,” Lorenzoni said. “Since 2009, when the format was conceived, new territories have been added that help bring sap and make it a format capable of uniting all of Italy, from North to South including islands, under the immediate and evocative sign of the volcano.”

For 10 years now, one of the association’s main stops has been in Milo, Etna, where the oldest Sicilian wine-related event takes place. In fact, now in its 43rd year, ViniMilo has proven its ability to renew itself, always keeping up with the times. “For the Italian wine system,” emphasizes Alfio Cosentino, mayor of Milo, “thanks to the Volcanic Wines network there is the possibility of Overcoming barriers related to individual territories and thus give a unique picture of wines that are often little known and indigenous grape varieties, telling many stories of truly new people and companies.”

Volcanic soils are extremely rich in minerals and trace elements combined with each other in ever different ways, so while they are united by geology they are, however, different from each other, giving rise to a plethora of different wines. Potassium, phosphorus, sulfur, calcium, sodium, magnesium, iron, manganese, copper, and zinc enrich the soils unevenly, but the resulting wines show complexity, salinity, and predisposition to longevity as common traits.

The tasting held at featured 14 wines (the 15th did not arrive in time), one from each vintage of the project’s life except 2011, and was preceded by the usual conference in which the geologist-volcanologist Professor Sandro Conticelli (University of Florence, Director CNR I.G.A.G., President Italian Geological Society) made the most interesting contribution, explaining the geological evolution of the Mediterranean, with the types of eruptions (lava or pyroclastic), and recalling how today in Italy we have 58 volcanic apparatuses of which 25 are active.

Coming to the tasting, as always happens, some wines impressed me more than others. Impact debut with the first taste “of home”: theEtna Bianco Superiore Contrada Volpara 2022 Maugeri, produced at 700 meters on the east side of the volcano, 100% Carricante. It has floral aromas of elderberry and fruity aromas of white peach; in the mouth it is well-structured but fresh and taut. Equally interesting is the Trentino Riesling Renano 2020 Alfio Nicolodi, at the geographical antipodes, from the Cembra Valley, mostly from porphyritic soils. The olfactory notes are hydrocarbon but also floral and herbaceous, the mouth saline and spicy with a grapefruit finish. Moving not many miles away, to Veneto, on the ancient volcano of Monte Crocetta, with basaltic rocks and tuffs, we find Gambellara Monte di Mezzo 2019 Tenuta Natalina Grandi, 100% Garganega. Wildflowers, hawthorn, almost hydrocarbon-like iodine puffs. Balanced, elegant, agile and extremely saline sip.

A jump south and we land on another great volcano, Vesuvius. Here is Lacryma Chrysti del Vesuvio Lacrimabianco 2017 Cantina Olivella, 80% Caprettone and 20% Catalanesca. Golden, intense, broad, with fruity tones of winter melon and floral tones of broom. In the mouth it is full and round, saline and tonic. Another vintage leap to find the Maremma Toscana Ciliegiolo San Lorenzo 2015 Sassotondo, one of the best wines in the tasting, which was born on the foothills of the volcanic basin of Bolsena, toward Pitigliano, on tuff. Austere and elegant nose with aromas of cherry, violet, Mediterranean scrub. Fruity, mouthwatering sip, still youthful, with fine tannic texture and long finish of cherry and graphite. We return to the Veneto region for Fongaro’s Lessini Durello Metodo Classico 2014 sparkling wine, from the ancient Durella variety grown high in the hills in 70-80 year-old vineyards. A golden sparkling wine with characteristic smoky, exotic fruit notes, hints of fresh pastry and a very slight hint of honey. Mouth really inviting, with fine, creamy bubble, fresh sip and fair body.

Beautiful surprise the Boca 2013 Barbaglia, from Nebbiolo, Vespolina and Uva Rara in Val Sesia, at the outlet of the old glacial, moraine valley, on the porphyritic bottom of pyroclastic rocks. Perfect tightness of this Piedmont red, with aromas of underbrush, pot pourri, but also fruity notes. Fresh, powerful and flavorful mouthfeel, with tamed tannins and a very pleasant return of black cherry and alpine herbs. We close with two whites, the Grechetto di Civitella di Agliano 2012 Sergio Mottura and the Soave Classico Froscà 2009 Gini . The first from Latium Tuscia, quiescent volcanoes, 100% Grechetto. Fresh and intriguing nose with notes of Mediterranean scrub, wild asparagus, and truffle hints that make it complex. Mouth fresh and saline, with structure and roundness. The second a 100% Garganega from volcanic black tuff soils. Aromas of flint, custard, hazelnuts and fresh, saline flavor taut and balanced. Two whites that have shown remarkable longevity.

The wine that closed the tasting was also a 2009, a tribute to Franco Zanovello who passed away in 2019: Colli Euganei Fiore d’Arancio Passito 2009 Ca’ Lustra . Full amber in color, still very floral on the nose, with notes of orange blossom, candied orange and dehydrated plums. Mouth sweet, honeyed but fresh, with a long salted caramel finish.

For the record, these were the wines offered (as mentioned, due to a mix-up the year 2011 was skipped), each wine was preceded by an account of its terroir and producer by a local or company representative:

  1. Maugeri, Etna Bianco Superiore Contrada Volpara 2022
  2. Aeolia, Salina Malvasia Bianco V 2021
  3. Alfio Nicolodi, Trentino Riesling Renano 2020
  4. Natalina Grandi Estate, Gambellara Monte di Mezzo 2019
  5. Terre di Nuna, Etna Bianco di Nuna 2018
  6. Olivella Winery, Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio Bianco 2017
  7. Girolamo Russo, Etna Rosso San Lorenzo 2016
  8. Sassotondo, Maremma Toscana Ciliegiolo San Lorenzo 2015
  9. Fongaro, Lessini Durello Metodo Classico 2014
  10. Barbaglia, Boca 2013
  11. Sergio Mottura, Civitella d’Agliano Grechetto Poggio della Costa 2012
  12. Murgo, Extra Brut Metodo Classico 2010
  13. Gini, Soave Classico Froscà 2009
  14. Ca’ Lustra Zanovello, Colli Euganei Fior d’Arancio Passito 2009