Sunday, 16 December 2012

Volcanoes & Fine Wine - the link?

Last June I was pleased to be invited to seminars in the Veneto, first in internationally renowned Soave 20 miles east of Verona; then onto the lesser known Colli Eugenie, south of Vicenza and close to the fine cathedral city of Padova. Historically a transitional land between the Alpine north and the continental plain which eventually leads 60 kms south down to Bologna, the hills of Eugenie are like little pimples on the landscape, formed millions of years ago by volcanic activity beneath what was then a calcareous sea.

And there's  the rub: for the purpose of the consortia's presentations was to assert that the volcanic soils present in both regions was the crucial component  in the quality and distinction of DOCG wines in Soave and Eugenie. Well up to a point, for the soils are more complex than that  - very good wines are made on limestone as well as the classic Basalt volcanic rock of the Veronese; and  the Colli Eugenie has more than 60 different types of soil. In Soave, a tasting of 18 wines from wine producing countries around the world with a strong or  tenuous link to volcanoes produced mixed results. In the end, this seemed like a perfectly legitimate marketing exercise to increase understanding and appreciation  of wines from Soave Superiore, but as an analytical, intellectual investigation, it seemed less satisfying. As Richard Baudoins, the best of the keynote speakers,  sensibly stressed, "in underlining the intrinsic value of wine, of course it's worth trying to find a link with the soil and what is in your glasss..... but we need  also to broaden it and take in more emotional feelings. Personally I'm more doubtful of specific links between volcanic soil and the quality of fine wine, as a general thesis." There speaks the voice of British Philosophical empiricism!I do agree. The influence of volcanic soils was strongly evident in some exceptional wines, for instance, the Etna bianco 2010 Feudo Cavaliere made in Sicly from the Cataratto grape, and the superb Soave Classico " Monte Carbonare" 2006 Suavia. Others like the mildly flavoured, sparkling Souki  of Japan, had a remote flaovur link with volcanoes.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

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