hidden europe 57

The Taste of Tufa: Europe’s Volcanic White Wines

by Nicky Gardner

Picture above: The extraordinary vineyard landscape at La Geria on the volcanic island of Lanzarote (photo © laceo / dreamstime.com).


Growing vines on the tufa and lava-strewn slopes of a volcano is a real challenge. Only the hardiest grapes thrive in such extremes. Yet, for the adventurous vintners who try, there can be big rewards. The explosive minerality of hefty white volcanic wines is something very special.

It isn’t easy to reach Tufo. Early each morning, and again in the afternoon, the train to Tufo leaves the port city of Salerno and climbs slowly into the hills. Well away to the west is Vesuvius. Closer to hand, just east of the railway, are the limestone chasms and bare ridges of the Picentini Hills. The train pauses at Solofra, a small Campania community that claims to produce the best leather jackets in all of Italy.

Then the railway drops down into the Sabato Valley — the Sabato is perhaps the only Italian river named after a day of the week — and the landscape changes. Here the soils are coarse and dusty. The train slips through Avellino, a town which has given its name to the Fiano di Avellino grape. This valley is where some of Italy’s finest white wines are produced.

Now it’s just another dozen kilometres down the Sabato Valley to Tufo — a village whose very name hints of uncompromising local geology.

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