SPECIAL WINES AGED UNDER WATER: FIVE SEA WINE CELLARS CREATED ON THE SEABED
Wine can be aged in the deep abysses, not just in a wine cellar. An increasing number of wine producers, both in Italy and abroad, are looking to sea water to age their bottles. We’re talking about real deep sea cellars created on the seabed, embedded between rocks or even hidden inside sunken ship wrecks. Yes, exactly. It sounds a bit surreal, but it’s actually true, and the whole thing is extraordinarily fascinating.
But why age wine under water?
Promoters of this method believe that the special microclimate that is created at constant temperature and with the total absence of light and oxygen, together with the movement of currents and waves gently rocking the bottles and total protection from the moon’s phases, all contribute to creating optimal conditions for aging wine.
Aging under water is used to create special wines, sublime bottles, collector and one-of-a-kind wines. Can you think of anything more awesome that a sea-encrusted bottle, adorned with corals and shells?
If initially it was mostly a regional marketing operation, as time went by, the growing interest in this method led a number of Italian winemakers to create Undersea Wines, a consortium to protect the underwater wine aging method to scientifically study the effect that submersion has on wines.
Starting with Liguria and moving across the sea to Sardinia, then the region of Emilia Romagna and finally Greece and Croatia, we’ll be telling the story of five vineyards and winemakers that age wine underwater.
BISSON – LIGURIA
One of the pioneers of aging wine in the deep abysses is winemaker Bisson that, thanks to the visionary mind of owner Piero Lugano, created a seabed cellar off the coast of Porto Fino in 2009.
The idea came about after having discovered that wine contained in amphoras found in sea wrecked ships was preserved in an excellent condition. And what if underwater sea preservation not only conserved the bottles but could also improve a wine’s characteristics? So, Piero Lugano attempted the experiment.
Back in 2009, 6500 charmat classic method spumante bottles were submerged in a metal cage to a depth of 60 meters (197 feet) at a constant temperature of 15°C (59°F) and left there for 26 months. The experiment was more successful than anyone could ever dream: a pale yellow wine, with a sophisticated bouquet, with salty notes and rich in minerals. From that point onwards, Piero Lugano’s visionary project travelled around the world.
Today, 30,000 bottles of “Abissi”, Rosè and Riserva charmat classic method spumante are submerged on the seabed, most of which are intended for international markets. The cost of a bottle? Upwards of EUR 50; each bottle is unique and special due to the marine incrustations that are formed. Today, we can say the “Abissi” spumante has become the flagship of the entire Bisson vineyard production and pride and joy of Liguria’s and Italy’s winemaking.
The TENUTA DEL PAGURO DI BRISIGHELLA estate – EMILIA ROMAGNA
The Tenuta del Paguro di Brisighella estate, since 2010 has adopted a really special aging method. The bottles of Merlot, Sangiovese, Albana and Cabernet are dropped to the depths of a sunken oil rig platform wreck off the Ravenna coast that sank back in 1965, following an accident. The bottles remain underwater in stainless steel cages, from 6 to 12 months, at a depth of 30 meters (98 feet), aging, without altering their well-balanced and rich taste. The special microclimate that is created, marked by a constant temperature of 10-13°C (50-55°F), as well as the shellfish habitat and the total absence of UV rays, means the environment is perfect for aging. In short: from disaster to delight! The platform converted itself into an underwater oasis and, in 1995, it was declared Site of Community Importance. An undoubtedly curious and original aging method that makes this wine even more fascinating and intriguing.
SANTA MARIA LA PALMA – SARDINIA
We’re now hopping to an island and, namely, Sardinia, where the Cantina Santa Maria La Palma, close to Alghero produces Akènta Sub, a special wine made from Vermentino di Sardegna Doc grapes, skillfully hand picked and made using the “Charmat” method, aged on the seabed of the Parco di Porto Conte Regional Natural Park.
The aging process takes place at a depth of 40 meters (131 feet)and at a constant temperature between 12°C and 14°C (53° and 57°F). The special microclimate helps give the wine its brilliant, pale yellow color with green-yellow reflections and a fine and persistent perlage.
The smell is reminiscent of white and yellow flowers, with a pleasant fruitiness, blending excellently with a slight bread crust note. To the palate, it is refreshing, smooth and with an agreeable flavor. Harvesting the bottles from the seabed is a real festive occasion that gets everyone involved. In fact, on that day, Akènta Day is organized, an occasion for promoting and valorizing the local area.
INTERNATIONALLY: FROM GAIA WINES IN GREECE TO EDVINO WINES IN CROATIA
Internationally, one of the most well-known winemakers adopting this type of aging process is the Greek Gaia Wines that has created its special cellar in the marvelous waters of Santorini.
The bottles of Thalassitis wine, made from the noble Assyrtico grape variety, are placed at a depth of 25 meters (82 feet), inside metal cages. They are left there in the sea for 5 long years. In Croatia, by contrast, Edivino uses terracotta amphoras, inside of which the bottles are placed that will then be dropped to the seabed at a depth varying from 18 to 25 meters (59 to 82 feet) for 1-2 years.
Tradition says that, before aging, the bottles are aquatorium pre-aged for three months. In addition, Edvino offers the opportunity to all those who are curious enthusiasts to admire the underwater cellar by booking a deep sea diving session. It must be quite awesome!
Have you ever tasted a wine aged in the deep sea abysses?