For those who make and love wine, it’s a compelling topic. Experts agree that the soil in which grapevines grow has a substantial impact on the character of the grapes those vines produce.
The expression refers to wines produced from grapes grown on volcanic soils. But even that definition needs further explanation. “Volcanic soils” may refer to a wide variety of terrains, including land formed from cooled and hardened lava, alluvial soils formed when volcanic rock erodes and washes down the slopes of volcanoes into low-lying plains, and terrain created by explosively ejected rock and settling ash. (Notably, Lake County contains examples of each of these volcanic soil formations.)
The variety of soils derived from volcanic activity – combined with other elements that also vary, such as climate, elevation, cellar practices, and winegrape varietals – make it impossible to identify a “volcanic” signature in wines. Nevertheless, wine experts have noted some common characteristics.
For one, the grapes grown on soils created by recent volcanic activity tend to be smaller, higher in acid, and lower in ripeness. These characteristics can concentrate flavors and create wines that are generally more savory than fruity. Volcanic wines are sometimes described as “salty” with a distinct “minerality” or earthiness.
Flavor of course is highly subjective, and these descriptions are certainly debatable. Nevertheless, it does seem true that wines from volcanic regions, like Lake County, can offer something new and exciting for wine lovers willing to seek them out.
Iron-rich volcanic soil in a Red Hills vineyard in Lake County