Aquaoir – from aqua,(“water”) is the interaction between a submerged container of wine and the set of special characteristics that a body of water and its environment hold – temperature, pressure, light (or darkness) and motion.
And so the experiment began in the Spring of 2013. Mira Winery dropped four cases of their 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon into the Atlantic Ocean just off the Charleston Harbor. The wine stayed for three months. Four cases of the same wine were left to age naturally in the bottle at the winery. The wine was retrieved from the ocean and the tastings, along with the media frenzy, began.
I was fortunate enough to be invited as Mira’s guest to attend a blind tasting of the two wines side by side November 6. The tasting event kicked off a 7 day tour where Mira was hosting a tasting event in 7 cities. The tour lineup was:
- Charleston SC – Nov 6
- Washington, DC – Nov 7
- New York, NY – Nov 8
- Palm Beach, FL Nov 9
- Little Rock, AR – Nov 10
- San Francisco, CA – Nov 11
- Los Angeles, CA – Nov 12
The setting for the Charleston tasting was at Harborside East and you couldn’t have asked for a more picturesque backdrop for tasting wine
The wine was initially aged in the ocean in an effort to discover a better process for aging wine. The three-month experiment, by all accounts, was hugely successful. The experiment was limited to three months to test equipment. The bottles came out of the water covered with barnacles, but the corks were still securely in place. Mira has now submerged eight cases in the water and plans to leave them eight months. The difference in this group of wines is that they were submerged immediately after bottling with no bottle aging prior to submersion. The labels were etched on the bottles for the new group of wines to avoid having to scrape barnacles off and attach labels after the fact.
So what was the result of the three-month aging as compared to regular bottle aging? Answer: Significant and Amazing!
I have been following this Aquaoir experiment from the beginning. I had already heard how significantly different the wines tasted. With the blind tasting, I had no way of knowing which wine was in which glass. Glass “A” appeared to be a young wine and was very tannic. It had a great nose with hints of leather and spice. I picked up licorice on the palate. I felt like it needed quite a bit more time in the bottle. Glass “B” didn’t have near as much on the nose, but the flavors were intense dark cherry, plum, and vanilla. It was more evolved, silky with smooth tannins. One would never guess that these were the same wine. Glass “B” had been ocean-aged. The difference was remarkable.
SIDE NOTE: The last case of the ocean-aged wine goes on sale TODAY. The first case sold out to wine club members in a few hours. Word of warning, this wine won’t last long.
So what created the differences in these wines. As of right now, the science behind testing these wines hasn’t really given any clues. The chemical analysis consisted primarily of testing pH, alcohol, volatile acidity and turbidity and comparing the results of the land aged versus the water aged. There was no significant difference in any of this. When the wine was submerged, the bottles were at 57°. The wine was set ay 60′ deep and stayed for three months. When the wine came up, it was at 72°. This was completely unexpected and they are not sure why it was so warm. The warmth could have sped up the aging process, but the results are not conclusive.
The eight cases that have just been submerged will age through the winter months. Will this make a difference? Only time will tell.
Could ocean-aging be the answer to the global wine shortage that is being talked about lately in the news? It is definitely something that should be looked at closely. Mira is the first US winery to try ocean-aging, but several wineries around the globe have experimented with ocean-aging.