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Benanti and Passopisciaro’s Etna at the bottom of the sea to understand how wine evolves underwater

Sinking bottles will be analyzed monthly to measure the effects of total darkness, absence of sound and noise, and constant temperature

The sea as a cellar, the darkness of the abysses to ensure refinement at a constant temperature, the waves to give a natural remuage to the bottles. That of “Under Water Wine” is not a passing fad, but a real enological practice, which has intrigued and involved many producers in Italy and around the world. From the sparkling wine Abissi of the Ligurian winery Bisson to Cantina Santa Maria La Palma of Alghero, which ages Vermentino under the sea, from Tenuta del Paguro (Ravenna), which experiments with Sangiovese and Albana, to Emanuele Kottakis, who with Jamin refines Champagne in the waters of Portofino, to the Azienda Agricola Arrighi's project on Elba Island on “Nesos, the marine wine”, a scientific experiment that goes back in time, to the wine-making exploits of the Greeks on the island of Chios. In Greece it refines part of its wines the famous Gaia Wines winery, in Spain, along the Basque coast, there is the experience of Crusoe Treasure, or again, in Croatia, that of Edivo Vino, which refines wine in amphorae immersed in the waters of the Adriatic. A practice that, between history, experimentation and “storytelling”, has also won over Champagne producers, from brands such as Veuve Cliquot, with its “Cellar in the Sea” program, to the Drappier maison, from Leclerc Briant to Frèrejean Frères.
The latest of the territories to enter the reality of wines aged in the sea is Etna, which naturally looks to the sea (the Ionian). The project, supported by two of Etna’s benchmark wine cellars, such as Benanti and Passopisciaro, the label founded by Andrea Franchetti, who passed away recently, and now led by his son Benjamin Franchetti, involves the sinking, 50 meters below sea level, in the marine protected area, Isola dei Ciclopi, of 2,000 bottles of Etna Rosso and Etna Bianco. The goal, however, is not only to test the effects of underwater aging, but to examine the evolution of the sinking wines during their stay underwater, through the analysis of samples taken by specialized divers who will descend into the depths of the sea, month after month. Behind the experimental research is the start-up company “Orygini”, founded by three young friends, Giuseppe Leone, Riccardo Peligra and Luca Catania, who financed the project together with Benanti and Passopisciaro, in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture, Food and Environment at the University of Catania.
The bottles, as mentioned, will be immersed in the marine protected area of the Cyclops Island, at a depth of 50 meters inside metal cages, and will age for about six months. The analysis of the “marine samples” will be carried out in parallel, on the same parameters, as compared to the analysis of the samples subjected to the traditional cellaring process, on land. This is the world’s first study of how wines evolve over time underwater, and the comprehensive mapping (on 14 different parameters among red and white wines) will provide insight into how pressure, total darkness, absence of sound, constant temperature, and absence of noise change wine. Month after month, wine samples taken from the seabed will be transported under temperature-controlled conditions to laboratories at the University of Catania for in-depth chemical data analysis. The life of each bottle will be monitored and digitally recorded using blockchain technology, which will track its digital identity card. The serial number will tell everything from the date of harvest and grape picking onward. These bottles will of course have the peculiarity of being non-reproducible, sculpted from sea shells and crustaceans, collectible bottles, and each will have dedicated packaging co-marketed with the winery.
Finally, important is the positive impact on environmental sustainability, since cellaring at sea promotes energy savings because it creates a naturally refrigerated environment for the bottles. Thus, there is no need to regulate temperature and humidity with air conditioners or to create thermally insulated cellars, resulting in significant energy and logistical savings. According to a study by “Life Cycle Engineering”, about 0.68 kg of CO2 is consumed in the cellaring phase for each 0.75-liter bottle: thanks to the ideal and constant temperatures of the seabed at 50 meters below sea level, about 68 kg of CO2 would thus be saved for 1,000 submerged bottles. Finally, it is hypothesized that maturation times would be accelerated, and if this is the case, the implication would be of considerable economic impact on the market of Etna wines, niche wines that need a long time before they are put on the market.

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