Sunken trea­sure re­veals a se­cret for bet­ter wine

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

SAINT-MANDRIER-SURMER, France — Divers scav­eng­ing in ship­wrecks slum­ber­ing at the bot­tom of the North Sea since World War II were dis­ap­pointed not to find daz­zling troves of gold and jew­els.

As con­so­la­tion, not only did they turn up decades-old wine, but the wine came with a bonus: it was bet­ter than equiv­a­lent vin­tages sell­ing for top dol­lar in lux­ury caves.

Among the lat­est to test the ben­e­fits of a deep soak are Ban­dol wine­mak­ers in south­ern France who teamed up with a dive school for a year­long ex­per­i­ment.

Choos­ing a tran­quil sec­tion of a ma­rine park off the Riviera, they sub­merged 120 bot­tles of Ban­dol wine to a depth of 40 me­ters, leav­ing them there for a year.

An­other 120 bot­tles were kept in a cel­lar for com­par­i­son pur­poses.

“It’s im­por­tant not just to live long but to live well,” said Guil­laume Tari, head of the re­gional wine as­so­ci­a­tion, Vins de Ban­dol.

Sub­mer­sion in deep waters “pre­serves the acid­ity bot­tles be­cause there’s not much light, there’s ab­so­lutely no air, it’s rel­a­tively cool and the tem­per­a­ture is con­stant,” Tari said.

The un­der­wa­ter con­di­tions — to­tal dark­ness and con­stant tem­per­a­ture — are thought to ini­tially ac­cel­er­ate the ag­ing process, adding com­plex­ity to the wine.

Ag­ing process

Over longer pe­ri­ods, the ag­ing process slows or stops al­to­gether, mak­ing un­der­wa­ter stor­age ex­cel­lent for con­ser­va­tion and ex­plain­ing why ship­wreck wine emerges so well.

Mas­ter som­me­lier Gisele Mar­guin took part in a blind tast­ing, com­par­ing the un­der­wa­ter Ban­dols with the same wines stored in a tra­di­tional cave.

The un­der­wa­ter Ban­dol had “a nice tex­ture in the mouth, a good struc­ture, and notes of very ripe dark fruit ... even choco­latey,” she said.

How­ever its “sec­ondary aromas are not suf­fi­ciently present” — sug­gest­ing that the wine would ben­e­fit from more time with Davy Jones.

The re­sults of sim­i­lar ex­per­i­men­ta­tion else­where in France — in western Brit­tany and in the south­west — re­main largely con­fi­den­tial.

But Philippe Faure-Brac, who was named the world’s best som­me­lier in 1992, noted that the tech­nique costs more for the wine­maker be­cause of the ex­tra time and lo­gis­tics re­quired.

“Lots of wine­mak­ers talk about it,” he said. “Peo­ple in the spir­its trade are also think­ing about ex­per­i­ment­ing with co­gnacs and rums.”

So far un­der­wa­ter wines have not gone to mar­ket.

But Tari is op­ti­mistic: “Ob­vi­ously if you can gain one or two decades (on the ag­ing process), it could be worth it.”

of wine were sub­merged in the sea for a year then com­pared with wine kept in a cel­lar.

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