Piero Lugano is an Italian artist-turned-wine-merchant who’s discovered an unusual way to let a fine wine mature—he sinks the bottles deep into the Mediterranean Sea.
About ten years ago Lugano began producing wine from indigenous grape varieties grown in vineyards overlooking the Golfo Paradiso. But he was running out of room in his Chiavari, Italy, shop and winery, and had no space to carry out the aging required to make the bottle-fermented sparkling wine in the classic method of Champagne.
That’s when he came up with the idea of letting the wine age under the sea. It’s better than an underground cellar, he figured. As he told AlanTardi of The New York Times, the temperature is ideal, there’s no light, the water prevents any air from getting in, and the constant counter pressure keeps the bubbles bubbly. In addition, the underwater currents gently rocks the bottles and keeps the lees (yeast particles) moving through the wine, which is apparently a good thing.
Lugano had to jump through a few hoops to get permission from local authorities who oversee the waters of Area Marina Protetta di Portofinio, a national marine preserve. Scientists did research to ensure there would be no environmental impact, and in May, 2009, 6,500 bottles of wine were put in noncorrosive stainless steel cages and lowered about 200 feet below the surface at a spot called Cala degli Inglesi.
When the wine was retrieved a little over a year later, several varieties of sea creatures came rushing out. Algae, seaweed and barnacles covered the bottles. All this was carefully cleaned dried and preserved on the bottle in a plastic sheath. This vino apparently goes very well with fish.
The wine, called Abissi, turned out fine. As reported by Tardi, when the wine is first poured, “the bubbles come rushing up to the surface of the glass, but then quickly relax into a fine perlage.”
In a few months the next edition of Abissi will be raised up from the sea and will be made available in the USA for the first time. No word yet on what the price will be.
Described as lean, crisply acidic, minerally and almost salty, it’s said to be a typical Ligurian wine.
But its aging process could be described as anything but typical.
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