Thursday, March 14, 2013

Forget the cave or the cellar, it’s the ocean.

Mira Winery of St. Helena, California has submerged forty eight bottles of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon somewhere in Charleston, South Carolina Harbor.

What, you say?

Then you say, why?

Then secondly, why Charleston Harbor, three thousand miles from the winery? Don’t they have an ocean closer? They don’t like the Pacific, they like the Atlantic better?

In answer to the second why, the winery is actually owned by a Charleston resident, Jim Dyke Jr. I guess he wanted to keep a figurative eye on the wine.

The first why is that he wants to see how the wine ‘aged’ (it will just be under water for three months) in comparison to wine aged on dry land.

The bottles are enclosed in yellow steel-mesh cages equipped with GPS, so that when the winemaker is ready, he can find the bottles. At the end of the test period, the bottles will be opened and tasted. The wine will also be subjected to chemical analysis.

Stay tuned.

This aging in the ocean is not actually new, though this one may be a first in the United States.

Some European vintners have experimented with ocean-aged wine.

Bruno Lemoine runs Chateau Larrive Haut-Brion in Bordeaux. He had two 56-liter wooden barrels built in which to age his 2009 vintage wine an extra six months. One was to be kept in the chateau cellars, the other sunk underwater among the prized oyster beds of the Bay of Arcachon, north of Bordeaux on the Atlantic coast.

The one in the ocean was chained inside a concrete chamber to keep it from being swept away by the sea.

At the end of six-months both barrels were retrieved and opened, the wine bottled, tasted and analyzed.

Wine experts tasting the two wines thought that the ocean-aged wine was better.

The experiment showed that the process of osmosis helped improve the flavor of the wine aged in a barrel submerged in seawater, by adding trace amounts of salt to the wine.

Winemakers have long known that wine recovered from sunken ships has a unique taste and the ocean is thought to have something to do with that.

In 2010 two bottles of champagne that were salvaged from a ship sunk 200 years earlier in the Baltic Sea, were uncorked. One of the bottles was from the House of Vueve-Clicqout. Richard Juhlin, one of the tasters said that “Bottles kept at the bottom of the sea are better kept than in the finest wine cellars.” That is if the bottles and corks are intact. He said that the Vueve-Clicquot was very chardonnay-like with notes of linden blossoms and lime peels.

11 other bottles from the salvage were auctioned off for $136,000.

So there you go, ocean aging.

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