When you read about Italian wines, you may hear about a few that come from volcanic regions. This is especially the case for Italian wines, which come from the more mountainous areas of the country. However, there are several other volcanoes in Italy around which vineyards have a tendency to sprout up.
Still, the term volcanic wine isn’t an especially popular wine in the Italian wine industry. Producers may mention that their vineyards are located near a volcano, but they won’t market their wines in any special way because of it.
That’s not the case in Budapest.
Hungary’s capital city has built a reputation for creating what the nation’s industry has dubbed “volcanic wines” in recent years. And in this article, we’re going to explore what this term means and whether or not exploring Budapest’s volcanic wines is something that’s worth doing.
The Volcanic Wines… And No Volcanoes
Budapest, and in fact Hungary as a whole, has no active volcanoes.
And already, we know that many of you are wondering where they can get off calling their wines volcanic wines. If there aren’t any volcanoes in the country, what possible reason could they have for the name? Heck, Italy has active volcanoes and nobody’s calling their wines volcanic.
To explain, we need to take you on a journey into the past.
Specifically, we need to go about 15 million years into the past.
Back then, the very concepts of wines, countries, or even humanity did not exist. The very makeup of the world was completely different, from the animals that roamed it through to the formation of the land.
And in what we now know as Hungary, the land was very different.
Back then, the country has many enormous and extremely active volcanoes. These volcanoes spewed constant plumes of ash and smoke while they soaked the surrounding landing in searing lava.
…Let’s just say that nobody would have wanted to live in the country back then.
It is this prehistoric activity that shaped what we know as Hungary today. We can still see evidence of these ancient volcanoes in the countries thermal baths and many mineral springs. However, it is in Hungary’s vineyards that we can taste the evidence.
You see, in Budapest, the lands that have become vineyards were those that were most deeply saturated by the volcanoes of years gone by. And the constant emissions of those ancient volcanoes gave this land a mineral makeup that is almost impossible to find anywhere else in the world. After all, few volcanic regions were as active as the one found in Hungary.
Thus, when we talk about volcanic wines, we’re not talking about grapes that are grown on an active volcano.
We’re talking about vines that are grown on land that has millennia of volcanic activity to thank for a mineral makeup that’s completely unique.
We Knew of These Wines in the Past
Today, we recognise the French and Italian wine industries as the two largest in the entire world, at least in terms of quality. Of course, there are many other countries, such as the United States, Australia, and Chile, that have their own thriving wine industries.
Yet we don’t hear as much about the Hungarian or Budapest wine industry as you may expect.
That wasn’t the case in years gone by.
Hundreds of years ago, it was Hungarian wines that graced the tables of European royalty. That’s because these wines had a certain quality to them that nobody of the era could quite put their finger on.
It’s only with the advent of more advanced technology that we’ve been able to explore what makes the wines of Budapest so unique. And it was the discovery of volcanic activity from millions of years ago that was the answer to the riddle.
There is still evidence of this activity dotted around Budapest’s vineyards. Ancient volcanic rocks still dot the landscape, which is generally hilly by default.
So…What Are Volcanic Wines Today?
You could argue that the term “volcanic wine” is something of a marketing buzzword that’s intended to separate Budapest’s wines from other industry’s wines. And there is certainly some truth to that as they are many other regions in the world that have seen their soil enriched by volcanic activity.
Regardless, it’s a term that’s taken off in popularity in recent years, so much so that Budapest holds an annual festival to celebrate Hungary’s wines. This festival typically features up to 100 wines from 30 different volcanic regions.
But is there anything that makes these wines special, beyond the term that’s used to describe them?
Many of the fans of volcanic wines will tell you there are plenty of things to consider.
Firstly, volcanic wines tend to have an earthier and more mineral-rich quality than you’ll find in other wines. This may not be to everybody’s tastes, but it typically lends the wines a unique freshness born from millions of years of land evolution.
Many will also argue that the healthiest and best grapes come from volcanic soils. The dense minerals within the soil prompt stronger growth thanks to the extra nourishment that the plant receives from the land. Proponents of this idea will point to the fact that we consider water that comes from volcanic springs to be of greater quality thanks to its high mineral density.
The same theory applies to volcanic wines.
Some would even argue that these benefits pass onto the wines to the point where they’re healthier than other wines. However, this is a claim that is yet to receive any sort of serious scientific backing.
The Final Word
So, are volcanic wines worth exploring?
We’d say yes and we’d even argue that you don’t necessarily need to buy wines from Budapest to explore their qualities. After all, Italian wines from the Etna region could equally be considered volcanic.
Whether these wines are of a higher quality ultimately comes down to your personal tastes. But if you never try a volcanic wine, you’ll never know if you’re missing out on something.