Sunken cel­lar may be the se­cret to bet­ter wine

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Taste -

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 year-long ex­per­i­ment.

Choos­ing a tran­quil sec­tion of a ma­rine park off the Riviera, they sub­merged 120 bot­tles of Ban­dol wine to a depth of 40m, 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 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 age­ing process, adding com­plex­ity to the wine.

Over longer pe­ri­ods, the age­ing 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.

“It's a wine of the fu­ture,” she said. “I think that this only can be done with great vin­tages. It wouldn't be much use to sub­merge wines with a less promis­ing fu­ture.”

The must of musts

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, re­called: “Twenty years ago, we had the priv­i­lege of tast­ing bot­tles of white – Sancerre and Pouilly – off the coast of Noir­moutier (west­ern France) that were placed in oys­ter beds for a few months”.

They were “ex­cep­tional bot­tles in their com­plex­ity and con­ser­va­tion”.

The ap­proach can be used with reds, whites and roses, but Tari said red wines are es­pe­cially en­hanced by long sub­mer­sion, call­ing the re­sult “the must of musts”.

Faure-Brac 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 age­ing process), it could be worth it.” – AFP Re­laxnews

Ban­dol wines are ma­tured in an un­der­sea cel­lar be­fore be­ing an­a­lysed af­ter one year.

Sunken wines are rather like trea­sures – re­searchers are find­ing sunken wines bet­ter than equiv­a­lent vin­tages age­ing in caves.

A crane takes a wine cel­lar out of the Mediter­ranean sea off Saint-Man­drier, south­ern France.

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