May 12, 2015
Traditionally, wines are made in a long-established manner: you harvest and crush grapes, then depending on the wine and maker, age the juice in barrels and/or bottles for several months or years. With slight variation, that's generally how wine is made. Since 2007, however, some wine makers and vintners have been attempting to age their wines...underwater. This is instead of in their highly controlled and tested barrel rooms or cellars at their (sometimes state of the art) wine making facilities.
There is a group of wine makers out there who think that the bottom of the ocean floor is the perfect environment for aging wine. It's an anaerobic environment (for those of you who haven't been in a chemistry class since high school, more on that here), where the temperature rarely changes from the 50-55 degree range, and constant movement of the bottles.
One winery in particular has experienced success aging their wines on the bottom of the ocean floor: Mira Winery out of Napa Valley, has been testing this method for several years. They've had success aging their wines in the Charleston Harbor, and have even developed their own theory of this aging process, called Aquaoir. According to their website, Aquaoir is "the interaction between a submerged container of wine and the set of special characteristics that a body of water and its environment hold - temperature, pressure, light (or darkness) and motion." It takes the concept of terroir, "the belief that the land from which the grapes are grown imparts a unique quality that is specific to that growing site," and applies it to the process of ocean-aging wine.
Vintners and wineries all over the world have been experimenting with this method since 2008, when Piero Lugano, wine-shop owner from Chiavari, Italy, first proposed the idea to the Italian Ministry of Agriculture. He's not the only one ot have tried this method, others have tested this theory as well, from Raul Perez in Spain, to Gaia Winery, Veuve Clicquot and Mira Winery in Charleston Harbor.
Time will tell if this new aging process has any validity in the wine making world, but these wineries and vintners are continuing to test and evolve their methods. As more information is revealed through testing, this may or may not become a norm in the wine industry. As many have pointed out, there is no space constraint in the open water, making the real estate used in storing bottles as they age before release much more plentiful.
What do you think of the idea of aging wine underwater? Do you think it makes sense, or is there not enough evidence that it's worth the trouble? Let us know in the comment section!