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!
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!
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.
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!
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!