Does the future of wine making lie underwater ?

The world's leading champagne expert Richard Juhlin sampling one of the 168 bottles of champagne salvaged from a 200-year-old shipwreck in the waters off Aland Islands in 2010. Picture: AP Photo/Lehtikuva/Jussi Nukari

By Shireen Khalil -

Ever since a treasure trove of 170-year-old Champagne was salvaged by divers from a shipwreck at the bottom of the Baltic Sea in 2010, change has been afoot in the world of wine.

A handful of winemakers from around the world have forgone land-ageing techniques and started experimenting with underwater wine ageing. Among the 168 bottles of French bubbly that had aged in near perfect conditions, was Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, a well-known brand founded in 1772 that still exists today.

One of the four Veuves that were found sold for about $AU21,500. Experts discovered that the historic “Baltic wine” version contained lower alcohol content and higher sugar levels compared to the modern Veuve Clicquot.

Consistent temperature levels, salinity, and low light and oxygen contributed to the results.

Greek winemaker Iannis Paraskevopoulos decided to give it a go, submerging his 2009 Thalassitis dry white the same year the historic bubbly was discovered.

About four years later he dived 18 metres into the beautiful waters of the Aegean Sea near Santorini to rescue his 450 bottles. Sadly, only three survived. Despite the losses, it passed the tasting test, sparking the obvious question — did it taste salty ?

He instantly noted a distinct and disgusting aroma of old fishing nets. Fortunately, it was just the smell of the bottles. The one bottle he opened tasted awesome.

It didn’t take long for Australian winemaker Ben Portet to adopt the unique technique leading him to be the first and only in the country to release an underwater wine range.

Except he did it differently; rather than resorting to the whims of ocean and ageing individual bottles, he submerged entire barrels of wine in freshwater (via a rain water tank) held down by weights at his family-owned Yarra Valley winery, Dominique Portet.

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