What we’re doing will seem absolutely insane until it’s not. And when it’s not, a lot of other people might start doing the same.”
Those are the words of Mira President Jim “Bear” Dyke, Jr. in an article that appeared this morning in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette examining the business side of ocean aging.
About a year and a half ago, [Dyke and Mira’s winemaker, Gustavo Gonzalez] took a hard look at their winemaking process, ‘from bud to bottle.’ They discussed grape growing (Mira buys grapes from seven vineyards in Napa’s Rutherford District), fermentation tanks and processes, and ocean aging.
Dyke said he and Gonzalez thought they could come up with a way to challenge the traditional method developed by French vintners of storing wine in warehouses or cellars at a constant 55 degrees. Then Dyke said he came across a story about bottles of old champagne being recovered from a shipwreck and another article about a French winery experimenting with storing large containers of wine in the ocean.
That led to the idea of ocean aging, called ‘aquaoir’ by Mira. By putting bottles in the ocean, the thought was that winemakers could change factors that dictate aging: temperature, light, pressure and motion.
Lorri Hambuchen, who writes the ‘Uncorked’ wine column for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, was at the Little Rock tasting in November that Mira held — one of seven held in U.S. cities — where participants compared the first batch of ocean-aged wine with land-aged bottles of the same vintage.
“It was a very intriguing tasting,” said Hambuchen, who is a member of London’s Institute of Wines and Spirits.
“But, if tests show that wine can be matured more quickly via underwater aging, the next step will be to see whether those conditions can be matched on land in a commercially sustainable fashion,” Dyke said.
“In a world that demands ready-to-drink wine, when [bottles of 2012] come out, they want to drink them as if they’ve already been cellared for five years,” said Dyke. “There is the potential for a significant benefit on the business side.”