by Barnaby Hughes
Inspired, perhaps, by the many shipwrecked bottles of wine uncovered over the years, some European wineries have experimented with storing wine in the ocean. Mira Winery in Napa Valley is the first American winery to do so, and it appears to have big plans for the process, even going so far as to trademark the term “Aquaoir” to describe the ocean’s effects on wine. While Aquaoir is not exactly analogous to terroir — wine grapes aren’t grown in the ocean — it is meant to call that term to mind.
For Phase I of the experiment, Mira president Jim “Bear” Dyke, Jr., who lives in Charleston, South Carolina, deposited four cases of Mira 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon 60 feet below the surface of Charleston Harbor on February 20, 2013. After three months of aging underwater, divers recovered the 48 bottles of wine. Mira winemaker Gustavo Gonzalez and advanced sommelier Patrick Emerson were on hand to taste the wine and share the results. “In full disclosure, I am a big fan of the control wine, which was on land,” said Emerson. “I am quite surprised — shocked at how quickly these two wines have changed paths — something magical has happened with Aquaoir. The signature difference might be in the riddling motion of the tides.”
Not all agreed. Gonzalez was more measured in his response: “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.” Buoyed by the success of Phase I, Mira plans to move ahead with Phase II, which involves depositing twice as much wine for twice as long.
If you are interested in sampling Aquaoir-aged wine yourself, twelve of the 48 submerged bottles will go on sale exclusively to Mira wine club members beginning July 1 on a first come basis.
You can click on each photo to enlarge.