Nothing sells a wine quite as well as a memorable backstory. In this five-part series, Jacopo Mazzeo explores wine styles with impressive tales to tell
Back in 2010, bottles of 170-year-old champagne were found in a shipwreck beneath the Baltic Sea. The recovery fuelled experiments across the globe. Bodega Crusoe Treasure in the Basque country, Edivo Vina in Croatia, Mira Winery in California, Viña Casanueva in Chile and Cantina Bisson in Italy are just a few of the producers that have in some way been involved with underwater ageing.
Champagne house Drappier lowered some of its Carte d’Or Brut NV, Brut Nature Zéro Dosage NV and Grande Sendrée 2008 into the bay of Saint-Malo and left it there for three years. Veuve Clicquot submerged 350 bottles into the Baltic Sea, with the purpose of retrieving samples periodically and analysing them over the coming decades.
Over in Spain, winery Viña Maris is currently collaborating with the universities of Alicante and Valencia to study the eff ects of undersea ageing. The project sees Viña Maris ageing its wines in a cellar located 30m under the sea off the coast of Calpe, near Alicante.
It’s hard to generalise about wine aged underwater, as it isn’t a homogenous category. Whether embraced as a marketing tactic or for the sake of scientific progress, underwater ageing may have endlessly diverse outcomes.
So far, most experiments seem to suggest that the submarine maturation process occurs at a much faster rate than in a conventional cellar. Temperatures are cool and consistent, but the gentle rocking of the bottles due to undersea currents speeds up the ageing, enhancing texture and aromatic complexity. Whatever seafood you’re pairing these wines with, it had better be full-flavoured.
Domaine Julie Benau, Picpoul de Pinet, Cuvée Libéro 2017
Julie Benau ages her rather unusual Picpoul for six months underwater to make the most of sea currents, which stimulate gentle yet consistent bâtonnage (lees stirring).
A Picpoul like no other, Cuvée Libéro is rich and complex, with an enticing savouriness and great textural depth.
£9.95, BWH Drinks