Winemaking has been fine-tuned by trial and error for thousands of years. Because winemaking is a craft. And tradition is strong among winemakers. But every generation has pioneers eager to try something different. That’s how oak barrels were first used to ferment and store wine, and that’s how cork ended up being the standard bottle closure. And that’s what progress is about. Research and development in the vineyards and in the cellars are more important than ever, even today, well into the golden age of winemaking. Experimentation keeps taking place all over the world. One of the latest experiences is to age wine underwater.
One of the latest trends
Aging wine underwater is one of the latest trends. Time has taught us that wine develops complexity of flavor and aroma with some aging, even after being bottled. That’s why many winemakers store their bottled wine, sometimes for years, before putting it out on the market.
The secret of aging is consistency. You need a dark, cool place, big enough to store sometimes thousands of bottles for long periods. The wine mellows and opens up: it matures. Underground tunnels, natural caves, dusty cellars, they’re all often used to put the wine to sleep. It’s not hard to see that the bottom of the sea has the perfect conditions for this too.
In 2003, Raul Perez, an unconventional winemaker in Northern Spain, aged some of his Albariño underwater for a few months and instantly hit the headlines. This inspired winemakers of the size of Louis Roederer in Champagne and Mira Winery in Napa to try the soggy method for themselves, and others followed.
Advantages of using the sea as a wine cellar are huge but so are the challenges. Even if storage space and cooling is free underwater, submerging and retrieving the bottles have a cost. And there’s the risk of damage, spoilage, and contamination. We will have to wait and see if this ends up just a fad or becomes the industry norm. One thing is for sure, it’s just the beginning; stubborn winemakers, as they are, will continue to push the boundaries as far as they can. And we will all benefit from that.
French version here
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