20,000 Liters Under the Sea
The wine world is constantly changing and innovating, with winemakers utilizing undiscovered forces of nature, whether be on land or in the sea! Yes, I said in the sea! Some amazing events have been happening recently that have shaken up the world of wine as we know it, with new and somewhat farfetched ideas presented by winemakers, concerning the techniques used to age their wines.
The Forgotten Cuvées
It all began in July 1998 at the eastern tip of the Baltic Sea, when the wreck of a cargo ship Jönköping was discovered. This ship was commissioned in 1916 by Heidsieck Monopole & Co to make the crossing between Sweden and Finland to reach St. Petersburg, to provide bubbly refreshments for the Russian Imperial Army. Unfortunately at the time the ship was sunk by a submarine and never made it to its destination.
Found inside the cargo ship were 2,400 bottles of 1907 vintage Champagne. While there were bottles of Cognac and Burgundy wines that had not survived these eight decades of 20,000 leagues under the sea, the Champagne bottles seemed to be in perfect condition! To the surprise of scientists and wine professional abound, the Champagne had resisted the trials of time, the underwater pressure and many other factors that may have affected the quality of the wine.
Even more amazing, in 2010, again in the Baltic Sea, another cargo ship was discovered amongst the Aland Islands archipelago that was carrying bottles of Champagne from both Veuve Clicquot and Heidsieck. The age of these bottles was estimated at more than 170 years, with a preservation of vintages dating back to 1839.
At that time in history, the style of the wine was different than today, tending to be made with more sugar/sweeter, and therefore were more suitable for long storage. This discovery baffled wine experts even more than the findings in the Jönköping. At the same time, these findings sparked the interest of several different winemakers in the Champagne region. Veuve Cliquot has already launched a project where 300 bottles and 50 magnums of their Champagne has been buried 43 meters under the Baltic Sea, in an attempt replicate the 2010 discovery by sinking a selection of various cuvées to the seabed to see how the wine ages when compared with the same wines in Clicquot’s own cellars in Reims.
New Marine Initiatives for Winemakers
Although Veuve Cliquot’s project is impressive and has garnered some noteworthy press, they are not the first to experiment with underwater ageing. One of the first to take the underwater wine plunge was Emmanuel Poirmeur, owner of Egiategia in the French Basque region, who in 2007 began putting his sparkling wine underwater during secondary fermentation in the Bay of Saint-Jean-de-Luz.
On March 29, Le Figaro Vin taught us that a company by the name of Amphoris in France has been specializing since last June in a practice of immersing bottles of Loire, Bordeaux and Champagne wine at 60m below the sea in Britain around the island of Ouessant.