Has making wine for some winemaker gone beyond producing good wine?
July 05, 2020
Last February I was invited to a wine event in London open to wines from all over the world, not just Italian, and during the dinner that followed, I sat next to a French winemaker that was bottle ageing his wines under the sea. He opened several bottles for the whole table to drink. A few days ago, I saw an advert from a Sardinian winery promoting a wine aged under the sea, it was all about the Sardinian crystal clear sea water and little about the wine. Immediately the French winemaker and his wines came back to my mind and I started to think whether, wineries and winemakers, to emerge for an overcrowded market, were going too far.
I haven’t tasted the Sardinian wines, but I did drink the French ones and were they great? no they weren’t. One of them, the red, was ok, drinkable, the white not even that, it had lost all its freshness, it wasn’t faulty, just wasn’t a wine I would love to drink. I can’t remember the grape they were made from, but you could not smell or taste any of their characteristic aromas or flavours.
Still, due to the costs involved in ageing the wines under the sea, he showed the whole process with boats and helicopters and divers, their prices were very high, even higher considering their quality. The wines, without the process, would have been an everyday, nothing to rave about, wine.
Having tasted the wine only after the ageing process, I can’t comment on their quality before they were put to age under the sea and the effect of the sea on the wines, but I wasn’t prepared to pay the asking price, I could have purchased a much better wine with the same amount of money. The explanation I was given by the winemaker behind his choice was that in the water, temperatures are stable, there is minimum light and sea currents constantly hit the bottles gently moving the wine inside the bottle. My impression was that the ageing under the sea had accelerated the ageing process and the wines, despite being just released, were almost oxidized.
On top of that, I did not like that the bottles had been brought to the table exactly like they had been taken out of the sea, with plenty of sand and shells still attached, so that every time you were touching the bottle or pouring the wine the sand will go all over the table and food. I asked the winemaker why not clean the bottle before and he rightly said that if the bottle were to be cleaned, nobody would know of the wine making process and the ageing in the sea.
It was a very interesting conversation but it made me wonder how far wine makers are actually going in the hope their wines will sell - sometime at crazy prices - in a very crowded market already full of good and great wines, where the easiest option to stand out seems to be one that has nothing to do with the wine itself.
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