Italy is of course known for its wine, and it also has a fair amount of volcanic soil. The biddies wrap up their volcanic wine passport tour and this season of the Boozy Biddies with the land of Mt. Etna and Italian volcanic wine. Spoiler alert: there is more than one volcano in Italy.

Kara drinking: Etna Rosso

Calla drinking: Soave



Study Notes for Italian Volcanic Wine:

*Please note some of these lines might be directly taken from sources noted above.


  • One of the most volcanically active wine regions
  • Only active volcanoes in mainland Europe (notably Vesuvius and Campi Flegrei)
  • Plenty of island bound volcanoes like the Island Vulcano (where the word comes from)
  • Location near the boundary between the Eurasian and African tectonic plates
  • “Endless jostling, crunching, scraping, subducting” has created the Alps ad the Apennines and cause “a chain of volcanism of every kind, from effusive to explosive, from Soave to Siciliy”
  • From extinct to alarming active
  • Without volcanism Italian wine would be different
  • Phylloxera free volcanic soils have helped to preserve Italy’s collection of indigenous grapes


  • Etna is a classic stratovolcano
  • Europe’s and one of the world’s most active stratovolcanoes
  • Looks like a classic volcano but actually has several eruption centers and literally hundreds of minor cones, vents and fissures
  • Mount Etna is both a “giver and a taker”
    • Rich volcanic soils have attracted civilization and provided sustenance to nearby inhabitants for millennia but then it explodes and ruins everything
    • Vineyards have come and gone
  • Wine has grown here since Phoenician times
  • Etna comes from Phoenician word “attuna” meaning “furnace”
  • Amazing collection of old vines due to loose, free-draining sandy ash and rocky lava soils with almost no clay
  • Many vineyards were abandoned due to back breaking labor but in 1988 Dr. Giuseppe Benanti, a pharmacist, decided to revive the family winemaking tradition started by his late grandfather and revitalized the region
  • Etna is one of 16 volcanoes in the world that the UN says poses a significant risk to life and property
    • “It’s an ominous place, one that makes the Jurassic Period seem as though it wasn’t that long ago. Even now, a dinosaur or two moping about on the foot of Mt. Etna wouldn’t seem entirely out of place.”


Etna DOC

  • A “shirt collar” around Mt Etna
  • Etna Rosso: Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio, with up to 10% white varieties
    • Described as “a mellow tune between the high-toned elegance of Burgundy and the rusticity and tannic structure of Barolo”
  • Etna Bianco: usually made with Carricante, whose production can be traced back to the 9th C and Catarrato – known for intense minerality

IGT Sicilia Terre Siciliane

  • Covers the entire region of Sicily including the Aeolian islands
  • Can be made in any style
  • Grapes: Catarratto, Inzolia, Nerello Mascalese
  • Two main varietals of Grillo (white) and Nero D’Avola have to be in the Sicilia DOC as of 2017


  • Monte Vulture – an extinct stratovolcano
  • Only volcano in Italy on the east side of the Apennines
  • Very eruptive starting around one million years ago that released massive quantities of ignimbrite later covered by other volcanic material
  • The phase that directly affects wine-growing began a half million years ago when the Plinian eruptions deposited tufi chiari (pale tufts also called Barile-Rionero tephra after the two towns where most fell)
    • Lava flows followed slowly building up the bulk of the volcano and laying down basalt lava beds
    • This combination forms the parent material on which the finest vineyards are planted                                                                                                                                                                                                                              
  • Very sleepy area considered a “land of eternal promise”


Agliancia del Vulture DOCG

  • Red wines made with 100% aglianico 
  • Superiore: aged for a minimum of 3 years including 12 months in barrel and 12 months in bottle; Riserva, minimum of 5 years aging


  • The Campanian Volcanic Arc is … a lot
  • Regroups a large number of active, dormant, and extinct volcanoes on land an undersea
  • Regular and massive eruptions from Lipari Island, the Campi Flegrei, Roccamonfina, Monte Vulture and Vesuvius
  • Vesuvius is the area’s most famous fissure 
  • Young in geological terms (25,000 years old)
  • Two separate summits and there is a lot of controversy about whether or not the eruption of 79 AD created the two peaks out of one ancestral cone or it had been that way much longer
    • Northern extintc peak is Monte Somma, and southern problematic is Vesuvius itself
  • Campi Flegrei (Phlegrean Fields – Fields of Fire)
    • Highly active volcanic complex on the opposite side of Naples
    • Multiple eruptive centers, five volcanic lakes and up to 90 different volcanic cones and craters that have erupted at some point in the past 37,000 years
    • Very pungent smell of sulfur in this area due to a geyser


Ancient city of Pompeii was one of the most crucial wine centers of the Roman world

  • Worshiped Bacchus
  • At high point before eruption of Mt Vesuvius, a bottle of wine was consumed each day for every citizen (they note wine wasn’t as alcoholic as ours is)
  • The eruption of Mt Vesuvius has a devastating effect on wine industry – afterwards only the rich could afford it
  • To meet demand, they uprooted grain fields near Rome to plant grapes – resulting in a food shortage a decade later


Benevento (Benevento IGT, Sanno DOC, Sannio Falanghina DOC)

  • Falanghina – white grape with good acidity
  • Aglianico – red
  • Benevento IGTs can be red, white, rose or sparkling
  • Sannio Falanghina DOC are white that are minimum 85% falanghina

Avellino (Taurasi DOCG, Campi Taurasini DOC, Irpina DOC)

Napoli (Vesuvio DOC, Campi Flegrei DOC)

  • Vesuvio DOC: 
    • Principal White Grape Varieties:Caprettone, Coda di Volpe, Falanghina
    • Principal Red Grape Varieties: Aglianico, Piedirosso
    • Seems like you can basically make anything within this DOC, they also make Lacryma Christi here, which is a sweet wine made with Caprettone and Coda di Volpe, and Falanghina and/or Greco

Caserta (Falerno del Massico DOC, Terre di Volturno IGP, Rocamonfina IGP)soave dio=


  • Southern Tuscany
  • Monti Volsini shot millions of tons of ash and pumice into the area 300,000 years go before collapsing into a caldera and created Lake Bolsena, Europe’s largest volcanic lake (aka maar)
  • Medieval charm because it is hard to access
  • WTF is Est! Est!! Est!!! Di Montefiascone?


  • Soave used to be underwater in a shallow tropical lagoon 
  • One of the harder regions to see the volcanic activity
  • Most of Italy used to be underwater in the period before the alps were formed
  • As the African plate ran into the Eurasian Plate the Alps started to form
  • Lots of subterranean pools of magma were created as Africa sank and melted beneath Europe
  • Area today is called Alpone-Chiampo Graben after the two rivers that now frame it and between the ancient sea and the volcanic fissures it explains the dual nature of the soils of Soave – white limestone and black basalt


Soave DOC

  • in Veneto – made with garganega

Soave Classico 

  • made in this historic production area

Soave Superiore Classico DOCG

  • at least 70% garganega – may also have Trebbiano di Soave (Verdicchio), Chardonnay 

Recioto di Soave DOCG

  • Sweet wine – grapes laid out an dried on mats for months after harvest (recioto)