The big bangs: For wine that packs a huge punch, try a bottle from a volcanic region

Volcanoes are awesome. They're cauldrons of energetic destruction, but they also unleash energy and life and create soil that produces unique wines with stacks of character.

I've been fascinated by volcanoes ever since I was 19, when I climbed Mount Merapi in Java during a minor eruption. You needn't be dodging lava to appreciate their power, though - you can feel the Earth flexing its mighty muscles by sampling a glass of intense volcanic vino.

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The long-term impact of volcanoes on soil and wine production is extraordinary.

Vineyards situated on volcanic soils usually produce intensely flavoured wines with striking personality.

The number of volcanic wine-producing regions is amazing. Millions of years ago, California's Napa Valley was an area of huge volcanic activity, many of the vineyards of Chile have volcanic soil, and there's a winery in Hawaii that calls itself 'Volcano Winery'.

You can also look a lot closer to home to find volcanic wines of astonishing impact.

We've got some beautiful volcanic vineyards in Europe, in countries such as Germany, Hungary and Italy. Perhaps my favourite volcano wine comes from the Greek holiday island of Santorini. After the eruption that took place around 1500BC, the island was covered in ash and pumice, which laid the foundations for some of the world's most unique vineyards.

The local white grape variety Assyrtiko copes amazingly growing in the volcanic soil, with living vines woven into basket shapes to keep them cool, producing zinging white wines of serious intensity and class.

With no irrigation and low rainfall, the vineyards often rely on moisture from sea mist, which is said to give some wines a bone-dry salty tang.

One such wine produced by Gaia is called 'Thalassitis', which means 'from the sea'.

The man who makes it, Yiannis Paraskevopoulos, the George Clooney lookalike of Greek wine, can be found each summer in his winery, formerly a tomato-canning factory, creating his salty-edged white wine right on the seashore.

Other top producers to look out for include Domaine Sigalas and Domaine Hatzidakis, whose zappy whites feature delicate floral notes - and if you find yourself on the island, try the sweet Vinsanto wines of Canava Argyros: lusciously sweet with a terrific zippy tang due to fermenting the grapes after a period drying in the hot sun.

Italy too has some magical wines produced from vines in volcanic regions. Greco di Tufo comes from vineyards that thrive in the volcanic soil around Avellino in Campania.

This crisp dry beauty is charged with energy and mineral-power and is great with seafood.

Sicily is another huge wine-producing area, and home to Mount Etna, whose slopes are peppered with vineyards.

According to Homer, it was wine from Etna that Odysseus poured to get the Cyclops hammered so he could escape being eaten alive. I've tasted white wines from Etna grapes, such as Minella, with pristine purity and potency, and reds with a uniquely spicy intensity, and I can see how the Cyclops found it hard to resist their charms.

If you're a fan of full-on flavour and up for tasting some of the world's most unforgettable wines, then shake up your palate with some volcano power - it goes all the way up to 11.

live magazine wine

live magazine wine

live magazine wine

live magazine wine

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