Thank you Jeremy Eubanks for the sole response last week on vineyards near the North Pole!
This week: Alternative Aging
What are some potential advantages or disadvantages to aging wines underwater?
If you age the wine underwater you may forget about it and then you can focus on aging wines correctly above the sea.
Last I heard, the wines from Bisson are not currently in the US because the underwater aging set off some alarm with the US gov. Heard that from a Rosenthal rep about a year ago.
Yeah, same with the Mira wines in Charleston harbor, or so I heard in 2015.
Raul Perez Sketch has made it to shelves, though.
I seem to remember Madeline Puckette doing a summary article on this years ago. After reading it, I was no more convinced that there are any benefits than before. Seems bottle variation is a thing underwater, pretty much eliminating controls in the experiments.
I am definitely humming "Rock Lobster" as I type this.
This one is an odd rabbit hole to look into. But a few interesting things I picked up as I read about "aquaoir"...
The obvious effect of aging underwater is the unique, cellar like environment the wines can enjoy. At around a depth of 50 ft or more, the temperature is constant, light is low, there's obviously less oxygen for the wine to come in contact with, the pressure is beneficial for sparkling wines, and oak aged wines see increased sodium carbonate, which increases flavor.
Another benefit? Extra storage! After running out of cellar space, Piero Lugano from Cinque Terre stores 6,500 bottles down at 180 feet deep in steel cages for 12 to 18 months. He sells them with barnacle tracks across the label for about $70 per bottle. Laughably, the first vintage took 10 consecutive dives to find where he stored the wine.
The natural movement of the water is believed to affect the wine as well. Julie Benau ages her picpoul "Libero" in barrels underwater and utilizes the natural ocean movement as a way of lees stirring. Chateau Larrivet Haut Brion's "Neptune" varies in depth with the changing tides, periodically becoming exposed to the air.
Some people believe that aging wines underwater accelerates aging. The wine makers of "Neptune" claim that the "underwater wine had more complexity and approachability than its land-aged counterpart." But! Some winemakers from Australia and South Africa claim the opposite and that their wines were fresher and more tannic.
I think the biggest take-away is the marketing advantage. Raul Perez, one of the first to advertise his underwater aged albarino "Sketch", no longer sells the underwater bottles but still keeps the name. Yet today, the bottles still fly off the shelf for their recognition. A vine pair article by Courtney Schiessl says it best, "That said, to the outside observer the results may not even be noticeable if not for the mention that the wine was aged underwater in the first place. Whether or not consumers notice a difference in taste, they will certainly notice a difference in price of wine aged underwater. Between new equipment, specialized manpower, potential for loss, and sheer marketing value, the price of these wines can be very high, often upwards of $80 for wines that normally would cost around $20 or $30. Mira’s now-sold-out underwater Cabernet Sauvignon sold for a whopping $500; in comparison, the land-aged version cost $48."
Depth is something that must be taken into consideration with ocean aging. The deeper you submerge something g the further the pressure builds.
True, although you can still find some bottles in the market (we still have a few at Spiaggia). I believe that, due to the barnacles that form on the outside of the bottle due to underwater aging, the wine is now subject to the same kinds of regulations as shellfish/food products by the FDA.
Also, to veer slightly off course but still within a related branch of alternative aging, the barometric pressure could be key to the final quality of the wine. Elena Walch does a release of the Beyond the Clouds where the wine is bottled and subsequently aged in silver mines for three years and released as "Beyond the Clouds Argentum Bonum," with the same labeling as the normal BTC but with a wax cap. Having tasted the same vintages of both offerings side by side, the Argentum has a distinctive reductive, steely quality to the wine, almost as if it had somehow taken on a certain weightiness during the aging process.
It is as if those wines have a silver lining of sorts?( Horrible, I know)
When it comes to alternative aging, I would like to mention one more thing I ran into in Austria: aging in granite barrels. I have never encountered this before and after a topic on Guildsomm someone pointed me to WA/OR as a possible US source granite aged wines - no luck thus far in finding them.
The winemaker from Kamptal (Weingut Waldschutz) uses it both for fermentation and aging, it had a 1000L capacity. He served his single reid "Rosengartl" to us and I have not tasted any wine that is even comparable. It had the fullnes of a GC White Burgundy, with the minerality of GC Chablis (yes, I know Chablis is part of Burgundy) crossed with saltiness of a Greek coastal wine. It literally tasted like "minerality".
Did you get any information from the winemaker on why he chooses to age in the granite vessel?