Winemaking Takes a Plunge

Monday, 5 November, 2012
Suzanne Mustacich,
Many winemakers are experimenting with aging wine underwater. Is there a benefit, or is the idea all wet?
Winemaking doesn’t normally require a snorkel, but experiments in underwater winemaking in France, Italy, Spain and Greece may have vintners reassessing their gear. By playing with the parameters of how wine is fermented and aged—oxygen exposure, temperature, darkness, pressure and agitation—winemakers are using the sea to rethink how we make great wine.

“Of course, if people want to put all the wine in the world underwater, it’s going to get complicated,” said winemaking consultant Michel Rolland. “But is there an effect from submerging the wine? Certainly.”

In June 2011, Bruno Lemoine, director of Château Larrivet Haut-Brion, chained a 56-liter new oak barrel filled with his 2009 Merlot-Cabernet blend to an oyster bed owned by his friend Joel Dupuch, an actor and seventh-generation oyster farmer. “I didn’t know what to expect. I was afraid it was complete nonsense, but we were very, very pleasantly surprised,” said Lemoine.

The oyster-bed barrel, dubbed Neptune, spent six months immersed in Arcachon Bay, partially exposed to air for an hour a day at low tide. High tide put the barrel 20 feet under. The wine also weathered the bay’s legendary current. “Twice a day there is this enormous mass of water—800 million cubic meters—that comes and goes to the Atlantic,” said Dupuch. Meanwhile, a similar 56-liter new oak barrel, named Tellus, aged the usual way in the cellar in Leognan.

In January 2012, the barrels were reunited on land and analyzed by... read on


Aging wine under water.
Aging wine under water.

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