There is something for everyone in the study of wine. Like science? We’ve got Biology, Chemistry, Meteorology, and Geography. Is Business your thing? Great, there’s Marketing, Finance, Taxes, Economics, Logistics, and Human Resources. History and Archeology? Yep, wine’s got it. The one thing you probably don’t have to know when it comes to wine-making is how to swim. Well, grab your swimsuit, snorkel, fins and facemask and get ready to dive in because there is a new frontier in the world of wine: the ocean.
An article from Wine Spectator I read recently talks about how winemakers in Europe are conducting underwater experiments to understand the effects of undersea fermentation. They are trying to discover how wine will age and ferment when submerged in the ocean, specifically the differences in oxygen, temperature and pressure versus wine stored on land.
Several producers have liked the results.
Last year Bruno Lemoine, director of Bordeaux’s Chateau Larrivet Haut-Brion, sank a 56-liter oak barrel of 2009 Merlot in an Oyster bed in Arcachon Bay. Six months later they had the wine analyzed by a lab. The results found that the wine had a more youthful color, better polymerization of tannins, and a touch of salt that masked the bitterness and heightened the flavor. The process lowered the alcohol level and rounded out the tannins. Final results stated the ocean wine was better than the wine aged on land; that the sea wine had a more complex, more intense flavor.
Italian wine maker Piero Lugano began aging Spumante underwater in 2009, initially because he had run out of cellar space. He tossed 6,500 bottles into a metal cage and lowered it 196 feet in Portofino Marine Park; letting is sit for 16 months. Reims University expert Gerard Liger-Belair says the wine had finer bubbles because of the cool temperature and lack of oxygen.
Wine makers in Greece are experimenting with white wines made from the Assyrtiko grape. White wines are very susceptible to oxygen contamination and undersea storage might be a huge development for the industry. So far the experiments have shown that red wines stored under the water fair better than whites.
If the trend continues, winemakers may soon realize that, to steal a line from The Little Mermaid, “darling it’s better down where its wetter, take it from me,” and make ocean storage an industry standard.