John Szabo MS launches volcanic wines book

Canadian Master Sommelier and wine critic John Szabo has launched a first-of-its-kind book focusing on wines made from grapes grown on volcanic soils.

Volcanic Wines

Volcanic Wines: Salt, Grit and Power

Entitled Volcanic Wines: Salt, Grit and Power, the book is thought to be the first to use volcanic soil as the overarching theme to introduce a wide range of grapes and wine regions.

As well as introducing the subject of how volcanoes are formed and providing a glossary of volcanic and geological terms, Szabo focuses on eight distinct geographic regions of the world, introducing specific wineries from each region.

The regions chosen are the Pacific Northwest, Northern California, Chile, Macaronesia, Alsace and Germany, Italy, Santorini and Hungary.

The book launch comes as interest in volcanic wines as a discrete category continues to grow, not just among wine trade professionals but also among consumers.

In addition, volcanic wines are occupying an increasingly prominent position on trend-setting restaurant wine lists. As noted on Wine List Confidential, Yotam Ottolenghi’s London restaurant Nopi now has a small section devoted specifically to wines of volcanic origin.

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The International Volcanic Wine Forum, held annually in Soave, also contributes to the growth in understanding of wines from volcanic regions.

Szabo was a key speaker at this year’s forum, hosted by Giovanni Ponchia of the Consorzio Tutela Vini Soave e Recioto di Soave.

At the tasting, Szabo spoke to the drinks business, acknowledging that though it was “impossible to define” volcanic wines scientifically, there was enough “sensory data” to justify having a volcanic wine category.

“While consumers tend to rely on grape variety as their main purchasing cue, as the market broadens and general knowledge of wine expands, terroir now figures more prominently in their thinking,” Szabo said.

John Szabo MS speaking at the 2016 International Volcanic Wine Forum

John Szabo MS speaking at the 2016 International Volcanic Wine Forum

“It’s more widely acknowledged and understood today that even small variations in soil type can result in dramatically different wines, and that the same soil type can yield a distinctive imprint regardless of grape variety or production region.”

Blending science, personal history and commercial considerations, Volcanic Wines covers topics ranging from geology to volcanism and the correlation between soil type and wine composition.

A wide range of photographs also highlights the dramatic visual appeal common to volcanic wine regions, while a collection of maps and wine labels take the reader further on a visual tour of these remote areas of the globe.

Toronto-based Szabo was the first Canadian to become a Master Sommelier in 2004.

He was listed as ‘Canada’s best-known sommelier’ in Meininger’s Wine Business International in 2012. He is a partner and principal critic for, and wine columnist for Ricardo, ModaLina, and CityBites magazines.

Volcanic Wines: Salt, Grit and Power by John Szabo MS (Jacqui Small Publishers) is available now in hardback, priced at £30.

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