First Annual Volcanic Wine Awards - Wine & Spirits Magazine

First Annual Volcanic Wine Awards

Vines on the island of Pico in the Azores are planted in small volcanic rock shelters called currais, to protect them from the ocean winds. (Photo credit: John Szabo MS)

Top Wines from the World’s Lava Terroirs

Volcanic Wines International and Wine & Spirits Magazine are pleased to announce the winners of the first annual Volcanic Wine Awards. Today, we are sharing the results for the volcanic wines of Italy; tomorrow we will share the awards for wines from the rest of Europe and the Mediterranean; on Thursday, we will focus on the New World.

The tasting competition was run this spring by John Szabo MS, of Volcanic Wines International, along with Joshua Greene and Corey Warren of Wine & Spirits. An important part of Szabo’s role was to vet the submissions to ensure their “volcanic authenticity.” He allowed wines into the competition if they grew “in soil derived wholly, or predominantly, from parent volcanic material.” Only magma that breaches the earth’s surface (and is then called lava) is considered volcanic by geologists. (Since granite, for instance, is an igneous rock composed of magma that cooled under the earth’s crust, it’s not technically volcanic.)

While wine drinkers tend to rely on grape variety as their main purchasing cue, as general knowledge of wine expands, terroir now figures more prominently in their thinking. 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.

“Tasting blind allowed panelists to focus on what made each wine unique and regionally distinct,” says John Szabo, MS, “and to assess its degree of volcanic character. It was especially fascinating to observe the panelists, who were not necessarily experts in volcanic wines specifically but all highly experienced tasters, converge on common ground of what constituted the most ‘volcanic’ expressions in each flight. There were many regional volcanic leaders in the competition, and the quality of the entries is reflected in the high percentage of awarded wines.”

At Wine & Spirits, the impact of soil on wine character has been part of the editorial team’s ongoing research. It ties directly to talented growers, who are working to deepen that expression by sustaining and encouraging soil health. While the W&S team, led by Editor Joshua Greene, has engaged in comparative tastings of wines from different soil types, a concept introduced by Pedro Parra, a noted specialist in terroir, W&S has never before organized an extensive tasting of wines from one family of soil. So this project allowed Greene to fulfill a long-time goal. In partnership with Volcanic Wines International—John Szabo, MS, and the team at Colangelo & Partners—we are pleased to present the results of the First Annual Volcanic Wine Awards. Many of the top wines will be available to taste at the Fourth Annual Volcanic Wines International Conference, on June 18, 2024, at the Altman Building in NYC.

About the First Annual Volcanic Wine Awards

On May 6 and 7, 2024, seven panels met in the offices of Colangelo & Partners to taste at total of 186 wines grown in volcanic soils. A call for entries had gone out in late February. We presented the wines by region, in numbered glasses, along with a key sheet that listed only region, variety and vintage. Panelists determined the medals to be awarded, based on the criteria listed below. Each panel was headed by a Competition Chair—Joshua Greene, John Szabo MS and Corey Warren—who met at the end of the day on May 7 with two goals. First, to taste wines for which the panels could not agree on a medal. Second, to taste all the Gold medal wines, to decide it any should be elevated to Chairman’s Award.

Our panelists and competition chairs awarded

  • 7 Chairman’s Awards (96+ points, Showing the Most Compelling Volcanic Expressions and Outstanding Quality)
  • 27 Gold Medals (92 to 95 points, A Must Have on Your List)
  • 45 Silver Medals(90 to 91 points, A Very Good Example of its Type)
  • 37 Bronze Medals (88 to 89 points, A Good Example of its Type)
  • 24 Honorable Mentions (86 to 87 points, A Correct Representation of its Type)

Our competition chairs provided the notes on the wines, taking the panelist’s comments into account:

  • John Szabo MS, author, Volcanic Wines
  • Joshua Greene, Editor, W&S
  • Corey Warren, Tastings Editor, W&S

Our tasting panels included

  • Gurvinder Bhatia, Quench Magazine
  • Julie Bramowitz, The Waverly Inn
  • Gabriela Davogustto, Clay
  • Juan Pablo Escobar, Babbo
  • Jhonel Faelnar, Atomix
  • Christy Frank, Copake Wine Works
  • Karen Goodlad, City Tech
  • Mary Gorman MW
  • Pascaline Lepeltier, MS, Chambers
  • Nacho Monclús, T. Edward Wines
  • Amy Racine, JF Restaurants
  • Harrison Spelman, The Waverly Inn
  • Patricio Tapia, Descorchados
  • Tara Q. Thomas,

About John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, a partner in Canada’s, became a Master Sommelier in 2004. A writer and critic, his most recent book,  “Volcanic Wines: Salt, Grit and Power,” (published October 2016, by Jacqui Small, London) won the André Simon Food and Drink Book Award in 2016 for the Drinks category. Szabo’s book considers volcanic soil as the overarching theme and link between a wide range of grapes and wine regions. He correlates volcanic soil with wine character and expression, having researched the history and contemporary achievements of volcanic wine regions around the world.

About Wine & Spirits Magazine

Now a digital-forward media company, Wine & Spirits published in print for 40 years before shifting strategy to focus on its digital reporting and events. The editorial team at Wine & Spirits has done extensive research and reporting on soil and its influence on the character of wine. This research helped inform the magazine’s Fall 2012 edition—“Uncommon Ground: Can you taste a place?” The issue was dedicated to the expression of terroir in wine, providing research that helped the editorial team focus a range of articles over the years that followed.

About Volcanic Wines International (VWI)

Volcanic Wines International’s mission is to lead in defining and establishing a Volcanic Wine Movement by educating the wine trade and the public about volcanic wines and their true sense of place. Guided by the definition John Szabo set out his category-defining book, Volcanic Wines, VWI cultivates an understanding of the distinctive geological conditions and natural forces that shape volcanic vineyards and highlights the individuality of the wines that arise from each. Since the first Volcanic Wines International Conference in 2018, there has been growing attention to volcanic wines, their singular character and compelling backstories. 

Joshua Greene is the editor and publisher of Wine & Spirits magazine.

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