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NESTLED ON THE slopes of Earth’s geological gems, volcano vineyards have been around for ages (some date back thousands of years). Industrious vintners located in these hotspots discovered that grapes grown in mineral-rich volcanic soil nurture some of the world’s most flavourful wines. Majestic mountain views and cauldron-like calderas paired with unique flavours make these wineries must-see stops on your itinerary. From the fringes of Mount Etna to the cliffs of Santorini, here are nine scenic sites for a wine tasting.
Several vineyards ring the lush slopes of Hungary’s Somló Mountain, an extinct volcano. Wine making in this region dates to the 11th century. According to local legend, drinking Somló wine on your nuptials guarantees male heirs, earning it the nickname “wedding night wine.” Visit Tornai family winery and guesthouse and revel in native Hungarian varietals—full-bodied and elegant, but still fruity and lively—such as Furmint, Olaszrizling, Hárslevelu, and Juhfark. (This is one of Europe's most underrated wine regions.)
Cooperativa Vitivinícola da Ilha do Pico
Pico, Azores Islands, Portugal
The Azores, a volcanic island archipelago that rises from the Atlantic Ocean nearly a thousand miles west of mainland Portugal, is considered a trailblazer in sustainable tourism for protecting its natural wonders and cultural heritage. In 2004, Pico Island was recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site for its grape-growing and viniculture, which has flourished since the 15th century thanks to its mineral-laden soil. Visit the Cooperativa Vitivinícola da Ilha do Pico in Madalena and sample wines made from traditional Azorean grape varieties such as Verdelho, Arinto, and Terrentez. (Discover Europe’s far-flung Azores Islands.)
The Santo Winery opened in the village of Pyrgos in 1992, but winemaking in Santorini dates back centuries. Overlooking the expansive Santorini caldera, Santo’s vintners created a distinct way of vine pruning called kouloura, in which low-lying vines are woven into special baskets. In some areas, you can see seepezoules (stone terraces) that maximize the soil’s absorption of rainwater. The winery offers 10-glass wine flights, including Santorini Vinsanto and Ageri rose wine.
Santo Winery provides sweeping views of the Aegean Sea.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY VENTOURIS PHOTOGRAPHY, VENETSANOS WINERY
Gambino Vini Winery
Linguaglossa, Sicily, Italy
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2013 for being “one of the world’s most active and iconic volcanoes,” Mount Etna is one of Sicily’s top attractions. Perched on the side of this active volcano, the Gambino Vini Winery overlooks the Mediterranean Sea. Visitors can enjoy views 914 metres above sea level while tasting wines made from the full-bodied, volcanic terroir. For example, the Feu D’o Bianco is a flavorful blend of the Grillo and Carricante grapes, while the Feu D’o Rosso has a strong red-fruit flavour and hints of licorice. Pair these wines with authentic Sicilian cuisine such as pasta alla norma and arancini di riso.
Volcano Village Winery
The Big Island, Hawaii
On the Big Island of Hawaii, Volcanoes National Park is home to two of the world’s most active volcanoes: Kilauea and Mauna Loa. Located just outside the parkland, Volcano Village Winery recently reopened following the May 2018 eruption of Kilauea. Open every day of the year except Christmas, the volcano-based vineyards offers tours for sampling its signature wines. Tropical fruits are blended with wine grapes to create distinct flavours, such as Hawaiian Guava Grape, Macadamia Nut Honey Wine, and Volcano Blush. (Explore 10 of the most striking spots in Hawaii.)
Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain
The Canary Islands' beaches, sunny weather, and natural wonders attract visitors from around the world.
El Sauzal is a small village in the northwestern part of Tenerife in the Canary Islands. Known for the Sierva de Dios Museum House (where pilgrims visit the 400-year-old body of Sister Maria de Jesús), the village is also home to the Bodegas Monje Winery, planted on the Tenerife Chinyero Volcano. Built in 1956, the winery still ages red wine in its original, 60-year-old oak barrels. Private wine tastings can be arranged in the modern barrel lounge, where guests can sample labels including Tinto Monje, Tradicional, and Tintilla.
Chateau Bel Esprit
Puget-Ville, Provence-Alpes-Cote-d’Azur, France
Set within a striking 121-hectare estate, the 17th-century Chateau Bel Esprit’s vineyard has existed for more than two thousand years. The winery is located in the basin of the ancient Volcan de Beaulieu, the only volcano in Provence, which last erupted more than 17 million years ago. You can rent out the 11-room chateau for a private stay, participate in a truffle hunt, taste local cheeses with a cheesemonger, and sample a variety of reds, whites, and rosés, including the winery’s coveted AOC Coteaux de Provence. (Visit the top UNESCO World Heritage sites in France.)
Carved out of pumice on the caldera cliff edge in Santorini, the Venetsanos Winery is planted above the Greek port of Athinios. Tour the winery and sample wines that have been produced since 1947, as well as popular vintages like Liastos 2008, Anagallis 2016, or the Mandilaria Venetsanos 2016. Visitors can take a ferry tour of the nearby Fira settlement or to the island of Therasia. Perissa beach is only 11 kilometres from the port, planted at the base of the statuesque Mesa Vouno Mountain.
Hoyos de Bandama
Grand Canara, Spain
The Hoyos de Bandama winery is situated next to the Caldera de Bandama, an inactive volcanic crater in Grand Canara, in Spain’s Canary Islands. Visitors can walk around the caldera, which also hosts a hidden, underground, volcanic rock bunker that dates to WWII. Before exiting the bunker, guests sip some of Bandama’s finest vintages including the dry white Boiler and the sweeter Caldera Semiducle wine.
Lead Image: Sun-washed buildings stretch out across the volcanic island of Santorini.
PHOTOGRAPH BY ERIKA SKOGG, NAT GEO IMAGE COLLECTION