Andy Howard MW picks six of his favourite wines from volcanic terroirs including Etna and Santorini...

The raw, destructive power of a volcano might not usually be associated with the production of distinctive, high-quality wines.

But, volcanic soils are adding plenty of character to the wines featured below, from Mount Etna, Santorini and Tenerife.

Click on the volcanic wines to see full tasting notes and where to buy

Why plant vines near a volcano?

Indeed, the devastating effects of eruptions in Santorini (c1600 BC), Vesuvius (79 AD) and the more regular – and recent – outbursts of Mount Etna provide sound arguments as to why winemakers should choose to plant their precious vines elsewhere.

A seminar and tasting held by the Institute of Masters of Wine considered the diversity and elemental composition of volcanic soils, asking whether this imparted specific characteristics to the wines tasted.

What became clear is that volcanic wines are highly terroir-oriented and that each region, sub-region or specific vineyard has a distinctive stylistic fingerprint.

A highly aromatic profile was evident in most of the wines tasted, along with a distinctive mineral edge to the palate giving the wines tautness, salinity and freshness, and imparting a high degree of finesse and precision.

Wines produced from volcanic soils are highly diverse, making stylistic generalisations impossible. Elevated aromatics and a saline, mineral edge to the palate are often evident.

Elemental composition, soil and bedrock structure and drainage combine with choices made by winemakers to add to the complex mix. Volcanic wines are highly terroir-driven and should be enjoyed in this context.

‘Volcanic’ does not necessarily mean ‘better’, but does indicate individual wines worthy of further exploration, as the wines below demonstrate.