Sunken Treasures

Sunken Treasures

Every now and then, a story will rise to the surface about how a team of divers discovered a shipwreck containing jewels off the coast of some remote archipelago.  A most recent discovery was 168 bottles of bubbly from several Champagne houses, including Veuve Clicquot, recovered from the remains of a trade schooner that sank over 170 years ago in the Baltic Sea.

A chemical and sensory analysis of the deep sea libation revealed insight into 19th-century winemaking and the ocean’s potential to preserve a wine beyond its average lifespan on land. It also sparked further interest by winemakers for the potential of deep-sea aging, with the belief that the ocean provides the perfect environment to gracefully age wine – cold, dark, pressurized, and completely without oxygen.

The discovery of the ocean as an ideal temperature-controlled cellar has yielded a surge of new sea-sunken-aged wines. Some are designed as trials, while others part of their commercial production.  Examples of bubbles from the ocean exist from Napa’s Mira Winery, to Santorini’s Gaia winery, Raul Perez in Rias Baixas, Spain, and the Bisson estate in Liguria, Italy, among others.

Piero Lugano

Bisson’s Piero Lugano was one of the first to take the plunge into sea cellaring simply because the Cinque Terre wine merchant turned winemaker, didn’t have enough room to store his “metodo classico” sparking wine.

“The sea is my other passion,” says Lugano, who is originally from the fishing village of Canogli.  “I thought about the discoveries of shipwrecks, often carrying amphorae filled with wine and olive oil.  The preservation potential is unbelievable!”

Lugano has been sinking bottles of his spumante to the depths of 60 meters off the coast of Portofino since 2009. The wine, aptly name Abissi (abyss), is made from local grape varieties Vermentino and Bianchetti Genovese, bottled-fermented in the classic manner, sealed with a plastic sheath, then housed in a steel cage that holds approximately 500 bottles.  The cages are then lowered into the sea and remain submerged between13-18 months. This spring, the 2015 vintage – approximately 30,000 bottles – will be ready to take its plunge.


Originally published in LUXURY magazine: Read HERE


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