Neptune, cellarmaster

Into the abyss. You might think that’s the metaphorical direction of our country these days, with the economy on the shoals, an earthquake and hurricane rattling the east coast, and the great Steve Jobs retiring. But it’s actually where an Italian sparkling wine maker is storing wine.

The NYT had a good story about Piero Lugano of Bisson who dunking his wine a couple of hundred feet under the Italian sea for a year’s aging called “Abissi.” Here’s his reasoning:

“It’s better than even the best underground cellar, especially for sparkling wine. The temperature is perfect, there’s no light, the water prevents even the slightest bit of air from getting in, and the constant counterpressure keeps the bubbles bubbly. Moreover, the underwater currents act like a crib, gently rocking the bottles and keeping the lees moving through the wine.”

It’s an interesting idea (even Cristal has tried it) that evokes all those amphorae strewn on the floor of the Mediterranean, even if they weren’t put there for that purpose. For wineries that would have to rely on climate-controlled cellars, this storage would be a greener option if they get their power from non-renewable sources.

I can’t help but wonder though…is it a marketing gimmick? It gives the wine a great story and wines with great stories generally fetch higher prices for wines. If you look at a video, the bottles are lowered into the sea in large cages–is it really possible that the ocean swells could rock those? The article doesn’t say which type of closure they used but if it was a crown cap, as is common for bottle fermentations, doesn’t that have an oxygen transmission pretty close to zero anyway? And I’m not sure what to make of the comment about atmospheric pressure on bubbles given that the undersea pressure is probably greater than that in the bottle of spumante. But anyway, it’s a fun story. If you have thoughts about the effectiveness of giving Neptune the keys to the cellar, hit the comments.

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9 Responses to “Neptune, cellarmaster”

  1. Raúl Pérez, the Spanish winemaking star with his own very idiosyncratic approach to vino, has been sinking bottles of wine in the rías of Galicia for at least a couple of years now. Uh, if the wine is good, I don’t give a damn what they do with it, but given the limits of frogman eonology, it is more a curiosity than an earthshaking development unless you a denizen of Aqua World.

  2. Thought about aging my wine in water but instead moved it from the basement floor to the first floor.

  3. “Frogman eonology.” Love it!

    As is always the case, the proof will be in the tasting. Looking forward to it.

  4. Tasting those submarinero wines with Raúl Pérez at those depths in the Baixas en la Ría, deep in the Rías Baixas, the lower fjords of Galicia, is an experience not without its special problems. However, even wine tasting at those depths is not quite as challenging as driving the stretch from O Grove to Cambados with Raúlito in his mini-Morris. For those of you who know the Rotondas (traffic rotaries) of Galicia–and contrary to Raúl’s belief when he is three sheets to the Rías–going straight through these roundabouts is not a viable option.

  5. An interesting concept. Maybe we should sink ours in the pacific.

  6. I know a multitude of wines I would like to see sunk in any ocean, lake or river that could take them, but given the alcohol content of many, that would be an ecological hazard and could, as happened in Cleveland years ago, cause the water to catch fire! Given the wood element in most of them, they probably would not sink, presenting a navigation hazard.

  7. Obviously not many of us can sink our wine like this- But if there is any actual science to it maybe there will eventually be an economical version invented. Wine cellars already exist that remove all UV exposure, so exposing your wine to light has already been remedied.

    The part that really interests me is the pressure of the water at that depth preventing any air getting in. It sounds perfectly reasonable to think we can fill an above ground wine cooler with water and pressurize it to achieve the same effects of storing wine at the depths of the sea. If this experiment works out we could have a cool new way to age wine and some fun technology to look forward to.

  8. The thing that is not evident from the bubbles arising from the tanks of a frogman enologist tending to his wines in the bottom of a Galician ria, is just how many of the bubbles are from the air tank and just how many are from the bullshit quotient. After you have put the wine in oak and battonaged the Hell out of it, what difference does it make if it is aged in the ocean or in a cellar? This is still the hand of man screwing up the work of God (read nature here). Such shenanigans are the work of people who do not have that rare palate possessed by even some peasant wine producers, who can convert the grapes they harvest by hand into wine with a minimum of intervention. They can come up with a truly original bottle of wine, not a wine that “the market is asking for,” i.e. that the market in Monkton, Maryland is asking for. Not only that, shock of shocks, they love to drink their own wines!

  9. More on frogman enology (in Spanish). What’s next, underwater wine tastings?


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