Cataclysm: Volcanism and Great Wine on the Iberian Peninsula

While staying in the beautiful and historic village of Almagro for the Christmas holiday, we took advantage to visit a nearby Tempranillo estate that had been referred to us by an old friend and winemaking genius in Ribera del Duero. We were astounded by the quality and personality of wines that clearly represented an unprecedented achievement in the area. The estate, Bodegas Calar, is now shipping its first wines to the US and they are sure to turn heads.

Aside from elite viticulture and winemaking, the personality of Bodegas Calar’s wines is inextricably linked to the uniqueness of the local terroir. This is the only vineyard area in Spain other than the Canary Islands with volcanic soils—bright red in color and reminiscent of the Jory soils famous for fruit-saturated Pinot Noir in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Elsewhere in Spain, the soils are entirely sedimentary or alluvial.

Terrain maps clearly show the remains of a powerful volcanic flank eruption (à la Mount St. Helens but on an even larger scale). In that era (the Pleistocene), Spain’s southern coast was nearby—today’s Guadalquivir River Valley. As the African Continent approached, tectonic plate subduction created volcanos just as in today’s Pacific Northwest.


Tasting Tempranillo from Bodegas Calar’s volcanic soils reveals fascinating new dimensions. The wines’ minerality and silkiness provide lift and balance in a very powerful style that will rank them among the finest examples of Spain’s noble variety.

Author: shm

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