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Forty meters under the sea, wine

Ⓒ AFP/Archives – Boris HORVAT – | A diver comes to choose bottles of wines in a trunk immersed at 40 m under water in the Mediterranean off Saint-Mandrier May 15, 2017

Diving in the depths of the Mediterranean, opening a safe and then … choosing its wine: 120 bottles of Bandol are kept for a year at 40 meters under the sea, off the Côte d’Azur, to better age and ” Sublimate the aromas “.

Everything started with the discovery of “amphoras that dated hundreds of years, or even millennia, and more recently (…) bottles of champagne or wine that had sunk several decades ago, Particularly in the North Sea, explains to the AFP the director of the National School of Scuba divers in Saint-Mandrier (Var), Jérôme Vincent.

Ⓒ AFP/Archives – Boris HORVAT – | Bottles of wine in a chest immersed 40 m under water in the Mediterranean off Saint-Mandrier 15 May 2017

In these wrecks sleeping at the bottom of a turquoise blue sea, opaque but clean, no gold pieces to find, but bottles, some of which “had sunk during the Second World War.” And the same observation: “The people who tasted them found them very good taste,” he says.

Surprised and curious, the divers and the wine house of Bandol decided in 2016 to “find the suitable ground to bury bottles of wine and make them grow old for a year”. Their quest will take them to an area protected by the French Navy, a training ground for demining divers.

The “matching of a soil – the sea”, a climate and a know-how of the winegrowers “will have convinced these professionals, convinced that” underwater breeding “allows to” sublimate aromas, release aromas Secondary, “explains Jerome Vincent.

– “A kind of immortality” –

Thus 120 bottles were dipped or buried at the bottom of the sea and 120 others kept in a cellar, so that after one year they were tasted and compared.

Ⓒ AFP/Archives – Boris HORVAT – | A diver comes to choose bottles of wines in a trunk immersed at 40 m under water in the Mediterranean off Saint-Mandrier May 15, 2017

“Under water, as there is no more oxygen, the wine is kept in a state of long life,” explains Guillaume Tari, one of the winemakers who lend their bottles to this experience and president of the ” AOC Bandol.

He also dares to compare himself with the human being, “who wants to be frozen for later treatment and resuscitation”: the deep waters seem to be ideal for aging bottles and ” Of immortality, “he jokes.

Red, white, rosé … All wines are likely to be submerged.

“Twenty years ago, we had tested bottles of white, Sancerre and Pouilly, off Noirmoutier (Vendée), placed in oyster parks,” says Philippe Faur-Brac, the world’s best sommelier in 1992. “A privilege “Says the sommelier-restaurateur in Paris, who remembers” exceptional bottles in complexity and preservation “.

Scuba diving “preserves the acidity because under water, there is no light, there is no air at all, it is relatively cool and the temperature is constant, says he. Moreover, “the movement of the sea patina the structure of the wine, bringing it a certain complexity”, especially “a minerality”.

For Guillaume Tari, “the + must of the must + is to dive red wine, for the effect extremely beneficial in the long term”.

– Wines still experimental –

But at the time of the tasting, Gisèle Marguin, master sommelier, does not make the same observation. If it reveals “a beautiful material in the mouth, a beautiful structure, notes of black fruits very ripe (…), even chocolate”, she also deplores “secondary aromas that are not yet supported today.” For this expert, the wine would gain to be immersed longer.

For the time being, the underwater bottles of Bandol are not marketed. And even if similar experiments exist in several regions of France, Brittany or the Southwest, their results remain confidential.

And the “extra cost for the winegrower, because of the manipulations, the risk for the conservation of bottles, labor”, makes these wines immersed rare and expensive, says Faur-Brac.

“Many winegrowers talk about it, spirits people also want to experiment with cognacs or rums,” says the sommelier. But very few winegrowers have launched and, for now, “the probability of buying this wine is almost zero”.

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