When someone says “Island” to you, what is the first thing you think of? Probably palm trees, white sand beaches, drinks with little umbrellas… but what about wine? You may be familiar with a few wine producing Islands like New Zealand and Sicily but what about Corsica, Tasmania, Mallorca, the Canary Islands or even England?
Islands often make wonderful places for growing wine grapes for several reasons, but it all starts with the soil. Islands are typically created through volcanic activity which in turn leaves them with incredibly nutrient dense volcanic soils, so packed with minerals that they almost act as natural fertilizers. Though not all wine producing islands have their vineyards planted in volcanic soils, they are all surrounded by ocean on every side. The ocean breezes that the vineyards receive not only cool them but also keep moisture from lingering on the grapes which can help prevent mold. But let’s dig in a bit more to the Island regions on this month’s flight:
England is a phenomenal island for wine, specifically sparkling. Their cool climate and chalky limestone soils are very similar to the famous sparkling wine region of Champagne only 80 miles to the south. The three primary grapes of English sparkling wine are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.
New Zealand is home to the southernmost vineyards in the world; they are the first vineyards on earth to see the sun each day. The first vines were planted in New Zealand in the early 1800s and since then the region has continued to grow and gain a reputation for premium, diverse and sustainably made wines. The well draining clay, silt and gravel soils paired with low air pollution and higher levels of UV exposure is what makes this Southern Hemisphere Island so capable of this level of wine production. The primary grapes of New Zealand are Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Merlot.
Tasmania is an Island off the coast of Australia with a cool climate and sedimentary soils making it perfect for sparkling wines, along with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Strong winds from the Indian Ocean, Bass Strait and Tasman Sea cause vintners to have to put up large screens surrounding their vineyards to temper the winds. Tasmania was also one of the earliest places in Australia to be planted with vines. In fact cuttings from Tasmanian vineyards were used to establish some early vineyards in South Australia.
With its fertile soils and rich wine history, it’s no surprise the Italian Island of Sicily is becoming the focus of curious wine drinkers and collectors alike. Throughout Sicily’s history it has been conquered by several different Mediterranean nations. Each has left their influence which has translated into a diverse food and wine landscape. There are 65 indigenous Sicilian grapes but the most popular are Grillo, Cataratto and Carricante for white then Nero d’Avola, Nerello Mascalese and Frappato for red.
New World Flight
Corsica is a French Island between the coasts of Provence and Tuscany. Though it is closer to Italy, it has been under French rule since the second half of the 18th century. Even though the Island may be French, the Italian origins of this island shine through in the wine which are predominately made from Sangiovese (Nielluccio) and Vermentino (Rolle). There are over 30 grape varieties growing on this remote island also including Pinot Noir, Tempranillo and Barbarossa. Granite based soils, concentrated rains around winter and harvest month and lots of sunshine partner together to make some truly delicious wines.
Mallorca is the largest of the Balearic Islands off the coast of Spain known mainly for its beach resorts and limestone mountains. But, the wine region of Mallorca is growing in recognition in its own right. Mineral dense alluvial soils and diversity in landscape are part of what assists in the quality and originality of the wines coming from this Island region. The primary grapes ofMallorca are Callet, Manto Negro, Fogoneu and Cabernet Sauvignon for red then Chardonnay, Macebeo, Malvasia and Alexandria Moscatel for white.
The Canary Islands is a group of islands belonging to Spain that are only 70 miles off the coast of Morocco. Though it is not very famous because very little of the local wine leaves the islands, there is a long wine history here beginning in the 1500s when first conquered by Spain. The most tropical of Europe’s wine regions, one wouldn’t think that the Canary Islands would be good for growing grape vines of any kind. But due to the diverse landscape of these islands, it allows vineyards to be grown in terraces at higher altitudes, sometimes higher than 1000 meters above sea level in nutrient dense volcanic soils. The primary grapes of the Canary Islands are Listan Blanco, Malvasia and Marmajuelo for white and Listan Negro and Tintilla for red.
We are only scratching the surface of the wines and the wine cultures that come from each of these Island regions. That being said, we think these wines will satiate the exploratory or social wine drinker alike so come down for a flight to learn some more in our favorite way… tasting!
Old World Flight
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We now host curated tastings for groups of two to ten people. Our tastings are a great way to explore wines that are new to you or indulge in some of your favorite regions. Whether you are looking to learn or to simply relax, our team has you covered.