On May 16th, my family and I were climbing up Sicily's Mt Etna, in the midst of a freak snow squall. Our guide for the day, a local geologist named Stefano, had a Sicilian accent so thick that it could easily have been the inspiration for Guido Sarducci. 'Stefano, when did that crater last erupt?' 'It erupted-a in eighteen-a seventy-five-a.' And for more recent eruptions: 'In nineteen-a eighty-seven-a, I see it (pointing to his face) with my own eyes-a*! Boom-a!' We peered down the edges of craters, walked on old lava flows, and stood next to house-sized rocks that had been spewed from the center of the earth. Exactly two weeks later, Etna had a fairly large eruption. And as I write this, a new fracture has opened on the southeast crater, accompanied by a massive plume of ash and smoke, forcing a partial closure of Catania airport. I'm incredibly disappointed to have missed that, and not just because I wanted to claim 'in two thousand nineteen, I see it with my own eyes!'
Yes, I know it's a little nuts to want to see a volcanic eruption up close. But I'm not alone; throughout history, mankind has been fascinated by volcanoes, and civilizations clustered around them for the benefits they offered: hot springs, health-giving mineral waters, but most of all the plants that grow on decomposed volcanic soils. As far back as ancient Greece, it was known that vineyards planted on volcanic soil yielded superior wines. High mineral content plus low water retention and low organic matter equal tiny bunches of tiny but insanely concentrated, deliciously complex-tasting grapes. In general, volcanic wines aren't one-dimensional jammy fruit bombs, but rich, layered wines with savory and mineral notes complementing the fruit.
If all of this sounds like something you'd like to try, you're in luck. We've scoured our distributor's portfolios for wines grown on volcanic soils, and we're combining them in one big Volcanic Wines Tasting on Saturday, October 26. Wines from Sicily, of course, but also Soave, Tasmania, Chile, France's Languedoc, Oregon's Willamette Valley, California's Lake County, and many, many more. These are some of the most exciting wines in the store, many with tiny production or from regions rarely represented. Mark your calendars-we're thrilled to be able to share them with you.
* Stereotypes often have a basis in fact: In Italian, all letters are voiced, so Italians speaking English tend to over-emphasize the final consonant, making it sound like they've added 'a' to many words.