This Portuguese Winery Is Aging Bottles at the Bottom of a Lake
Every so often you hear stories of bottles of wine or beer found at the bottom of the ocean, usually discovered decades after a shipwreck. Though your initial instinct is typically, “Who wants to drink that old crap?” Inevitably, the point is made that underwater storage is actually ideal for aging: there’s temperature control, a lack of light and no oxygen. However, underwater aging, as far as a commercial process is concerned, is still relatively rare.
But as winemakers become more willing to experiment, more stories emerge about wines like Vinho de Agua from the Ervideira winery in Portugal’s Alentejo region. Your Portuguese only needs to be as good as mine to know that “Vinho de Agua” translates to “Wine of Water” and, indeed, this red blend that was released this past Saturday spends eight months submerged in crates about 100 feet underwater at the Alqueva Dam. “We have, in our region, the largest artificial lake in Europe that aids much of the economy and local agriculture,” Duarte Leal da Costa, one of the winery’s owners, told Mad Money. “It is mainly used to irrigate the vineyards, but why not also assist in the winemaking process?”
But does water aging really make a difference? CNET’s Chris Matyszczyk tried the 2014 Conde D’Ervideira head-to-head against its water-aged Vinho de Agua counterpart and claims the underwater version was not only distinctly different, but significantly better. “The one aged in the usual way, in a cellar, was good, perhaps a little on the young and fruity side,” Matyszczyk wrote. “But the so-called Vinho De Agua version was very much ready to be drunk, as if it had spent several years waiting for me to turn up. Not only did it taste entirely different, but it tasted as if it wasn't remotely the same blend.”
Leal da Costa said about 30,000 bottles were aged this way, and some should land on the international market for about $30 (though he made no specific mention if they’d be available in the States).
Meanwhile, it’ll be interesting to see if underwater aging continues to catch on. The next big question might be who needs a wine cellar when you have a pool?