Wine Under Water

Is this a fad or is there science behind ageing wine under water?


In the world of wine it's often tough to separate the fad from the trend or the novel from the avant guard. Take for example organic and/or natural wine. Yes there remains a certain degree of controversy as to what these terms actually mean, but the wines themselves have moved from the backwaters 20 years ago, to the fringes of the wine world ten years ago and today occupy a vital part of the core of industry. There are wineries that use the natural/organic mantle as a marketing ploy of course, and some witless wine writers who continue to question whether natural/organic is here to stay or just a fad; please join us in the 21st century.

Now if you want a fad might I suggest the increasingly popular experiment of ageing wine under water, it seems the sea is preferable, but any deep enough body of water should do. Now I get the idea here, water tends to remain at a relatively constant temperature with changes that are very slow, so given the right temperatures it is an ideal environment for aging wine, but is it really any better than aging wine in a proper cellar? Some producers say yes, I am dubious to say the least, particularly in light of the numerous press releases each of these wines seems to generate. Fad, marketing ploy, or something more serious? Let's take a look at some of the producers ageing wine under water and make up our own minds!

Mira Winery

Anybody in the market for a 2009 Napa Cabernet that was aged in Charleston Harbor in South Carolina for 90 days needs to get in touch with Mira Winery. They have just the thing to scratch your itch, and it's only $1,000 a bottle. Now if that doesn't say gimmick I don't know what will. You think I'm jaded? Well consider this, Mira's 2009 Napa cabernet that hasn't seen the floor of Charleston Harbor is only $48 a bottle, and you never heard of it anyway, until it was aged under the sea!
 

Bisson

Here's another sea-ager, reportedly born out of necessity as opposed to novelty. The story goes that Piero Lugano, founder of Bisson wines shop in Chiavari Italy was looking to produce a world class sparkling wine from this coastal region of Liguria. His small retail store and winery afforded little space in which to properly age this wine so he turned to the sea. Aged for 13 months under the gentle waters off the coast near Genoa, the current release is the 2009 vintage which you can buy today. Some 6,500 bottles were produced making this relatively easy to find though $85 for an Italian spumante is, shall we say, ambitious? Still, I'm planning on trying this. So kill me, I'm a sucker for things Italian, and it's not like they aren't the masters of the fad.

Larrivet-Haut-Brion

Here's a drastically different take on this whole underwater aging process. Everybody is aging wine in bottle under the sea, but how about wine in BARREL? Crazy right? Well Larrivet-Haut-Brion has aged a 56 liter barrel, yes it is tiny, a quarter the size of a traditional Bordeaux barrel, of their 2009 vintage under the sea in Cap Ferret on the Atlantic coast. Entombed in a cement case, these guys are wacky but their neither crazy nor dumb, the wine reportedly was softer than wine stored in an identical barrel but aged in the Chateau's cellars. Laboratory analysis actually revealed that the sea aged wine had lower alcohol than its cellar aged brother, a strange result indeed! Oh, and the wine had absorbed a hint of salt as well, that must have aded some complexity to the wine!

Espelt

Wherever one looks there are additional practitioners of this submariner's art, though admittedly some have garnered more fame than others. Take for example Espelt's attempts to age 300 bottles of wine for 400 days under the water in Spain's Cap de Creus National Park. Whatever happened to this wine, Vailet (white), ViDivi (red) and Escuturit Brut Cava (sparkling) that was produced in partnership with the famed El Bulli restaurant in an effort to promote the wines of the Catalonia region? Maybe there's more to this trend than simple marketing messaging since this lot of wine was actually sold by a single restaurant in Spain, and from the looks of it, mostly at one grand celebration. Can anybody tell us more?

Chateau Champs des Soeurs and Abbaye Sainte Eugenie

It is possible that this whole aging under the water business might be more than simple marketing efforts after all, case in point might be the collaborative efforts of Chateau Champs des Soeurs and Abbaye Sainte Eugenie in France's Languedoc region. Some 15 months ago these two producers submerged some 400 bottles of wine with the intention of aging them under the sea for 8 months, which means that they should be filtering into the marketplace somewhere right about now. I'd love to get my hands on a bottle or two, price permitting of course. This is of course one of the world's great sources for value wines so even with the under water premium I would expect this wine might be an affordable option for those wishing to see for themselves what this business is all about. Let me know if you see any for sale and I'll do the same!

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Comments

  • Snooth User: almondeve
    128786 1

    Gaia out of Santorini is also aging wine under water.

    Jul 10, 2013 at 5:55 PM


  • In August, 2011, Leucadia Red sunk a case of Leucadia Red 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon wine -- BEFORE it became a popular thing to do. Wine was sunk 90 feet under the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Catalina Island and is protected by professional divers. The owner is going to pull up the case soon and then auction off the bottles to benefit a variety of charities -- video here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fL3v...

    Jul 10, 2013 at 7:56 PM


  • While this seems ridiculous, a blind tasting of bottles aged on terra firma vs bottles aged (for the same time period) under water, might make sense. By the way, has my pet rock become a collectible?
    Sed

    Jul 10, 2013 at 10:46 PM


  • Snooth User: gerrad
    79282 57

    might settle the wine 'needs/doesnt need oxygen ingress to develop' arguement once and for all (im with the latter- 'doesnt need oxygen ingress' ..along with Prof.Peynaud)

    Jul 11, 2013 at 12:54 AM


  • Snooth User: EMark
    Hand of Snooth
    847804 5,278

    Sure seems silly to me--not to mention spendy.

    Jul 11, 2013 at 5:46 PM


  • Snooth User: MetteinCoMo
    1302504 313

    Maybe it has to do with the increased pressure in the bottles under water i.e. the molecules in the wine are forced to interact at an increased rate, which could result in differently developed wine. Also, the temperature changes for an object submerged in water is quicker than in air... maybe that could result in a difference? I'm not an expert on wine aged under water, however, I am a scientist and those would be my logical guesses.

    Jul 11, 2013 at 6:39 PM


  • Snooth User: Martin E
    249368 16

    This goes back to discoveries of old wines from shipwrecks that lay under the sea for 100+ years. Examples: (1) Finnish divers recently discovered several crates of champagne and beer from a sunken ship that had been at the bottom of the Baltic Sea for nearly two centuries. The divers expected to taste seawater that had seeped into the bottle but were shocked to discover the wine still tasted fine. (2) By James Suckling, A collection of wines that lay on the ocean floor for nearly 138 years off the Georgia coast were tasted in 1979 and described as "incredibly good."
    I guess constant cool temperature, high pressure, limited oxidation, and environment that prevents corks from drying out helps in this case. Plus, small amount of sea water may add some complexity.

    Jul 14, 2013 at 2:22 PM


  • Snooth User: JT Greeno
    1078174 186

    QUOTE: " Wine was sunk 90 feet under the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Catalina Island and is protected by professional divers. "

    Does that mean there are professional divers protecting the wine 24x7? (probably not)...

    So the wine isn't protected whenever the divers are not present, so what benefit (if any) is there to paying professional divers to protect the wine some of the time?

    Jul 16, 2013 at 3:07 PM


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