Drunken Treasure: the aquoir wine aging process

Following several European wineries, Mira Winery, a Napa Valley winery launched in August 2012, has undertaken an unusual experiment. It submerged several cases of wine in the Atlantic waters off South Carolina to test how ocean conditions affect the wine’s aging process. After three months, the wine will be compared in a tasting by sommeliers with the same wine stored in similar above-ground conditions. Learn more about this experiment at www.miranapa.com/charlestonharbor.

We’ll soon learn whether temperature, pressure, humidity, pressure motion, oxygen and light deprivation in the ocean environments ages wine better than traditional land aging techniques. There is not much written about the European wineries trying this, but Vina Casanueva, a Chilean winery, has been doing this for years. The idea emerged after wines found in sunken ships had aged well in the underwater environment (“aquoir”). Wine experts questioned whether this accidental aging process opened the door to a better way to do things. This is still being explored. No one has a definitive answer.

My research on this topic lead to a lot of commentary about this “experiment” creating buzz to sell wines more than advancing the science of wine making. It certainly worked. A winery that was less than six months old reached the top of internet search results. The publicity was “priceless” (I mean, free). The cost to do this probably was a fraction of a national (or international) product launch. I’ll bet people will line up to buy the submerged Mira Vintage at above-market prices of $130-$150 per bottle. What is the cost of an unsubmerged bottle? I suspect it is 10-20% of the submerged bottle price. I am not sure what the outcome will be, however, I admire the creativity in both winemaking and branding. What is next? Is there a way to age wine on the moon?