by Barnaby Hughes
Mira Winery made headlines earlier this year when it aged four cases of its 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon underwater in Charleston Harbor for three months. When the wine was later brought to the surface and tasted, Mira winemaker Gustavo Gonzalez was quoted as saying, “It’s not better, it’s not worse and it is definitely different. The land wine is tighter versus Aquaoir-aged wine, which is more complex and broad, more open and relaxed. The result is proof certain that we have more to learn.”
At a recent blind tasting of Mira’s Aquaoir-aged and land-aged Cabernet Sauvignons hosted at A.O.C. wine bar in Los Angeles, I discovered that Gustavo had learned plenty since that day in May. He and Mira president Jim “Bear” Dyke, Jr. were completing the final leg of a six-day tasting tour that began in Charleston on November 6 and ended in Los Angeles on November 12. Before we were invited to taste the wines, participants were asked to compare their look and smell. Gustavo revealed that various lab tests showed no physical or chemical differences between the two wines, except that the Aquaoir-aged Cab was a little bit murkier.
After tasting the Aquaoir-aged and land-aged wines blind, Bear Dyke asked us to guess which was which. Before answering that question, I forced myself to imagine what effect the ocean would have on the wine. My hypothesis was that the wine should be more aromatic and less tannic – and I was right! The Aquaoir-aged wine was remarkably improved, by as much as a whole point on the Gayot rating scale. Gustavo estimated that the ocean had aged the wine by two years, instead of just three months.
If you want to taste the difference yourself, Mira is selling a very limited number of two-bottle boxed sets of its Aquaoir- and land-aged 2009 Cabernet Sauvignons for $500 each. This is just the conclusion of the first phase of Mira Winery’s aging experiments. Four more cases of Cabernet Sauvignon were submerged in Charleston Harbor on November 6. This time, however, they will remain underwater for six months. Future experiments might involve other varietals, such as Pinot Noir.
You can click on each photo to enlarge.