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The French Cycling Bicycle Gourmet - French Country Travel Life Film Maker and Author. Your non-snobby Gourmet Guide to food, wine travel and Lifestyle Adventure!

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Underwater French Wine Cellar


Underwater French Wine Cellar? Yes, Virginia, there IS such an animal. But before I let the cat out of the bag – or , more appropriately – the fish out of the acquarium – why would any steeped-in-tradition-this-is-the-only-way-to-do-it French Wino want an undersea wine cellar?

The short answer is : because it has been demonstrated to improve the wine. Not, however in all cases. But this fact, amplified somewhat by the knowledge that the Romans allegedly added salt to their vintages, was enough to get one of France’s more prestigous Winos curious. Curious enough to try experimenting with an Underwater French Wine Cellar.  (authors note : DA BG is not curious enough to try this.)

Laurent Banguet has the details:

“I had heard a bunch of stories about wines ageing at sea,” Bruno Lemoine, who runs the cellars of Chateau Larrivet Haut-Brion in the southwest Bordeaux region, explained as he unveiled their findings this week in Paris.

One of the earliest known sea vintages dates from the 18th century, when the Bordeaux baron Louis-Gaspard d’Estournel sent a shipment of wine to India, whose unsold bottles returned to France mysteriously improved by the journey in the hull.

The most recent – and extreme – case dates from Friday, when 11 bottles of the world’s oldest champagne, salvaged in 2010 from a Baltic Sea shipwreck, were auctioned off in Finland for 109,280 euros ($136,000).

The six bottles of Juglar, four of Veuve Clicquot and one of Heidsieck & Co, were preserved or even improved in the 200 years since the wreck, experts believe, thanks to the ideal conditions found on the chilled, lightless bed of the Baltic.

“I found the whole idea amusing and intriguing,” Lemoine said. “So when in 2009 we found ourselves with an exceptional vintage, full of rich tannins, I decided to put it to good use.”

“It started out as a lark among friends. One of us came up with the idea and the others ran with it.”

First Lemoine asked his barrel-maker chum Pierre-Guillaume Chiberry to build him two small 56-litre wooden barrels in which to age his red wine by an extra six months.

One was to be kept in the chateau cellars, the other sunk underwater among the prized oyster beds of the Bay of Arcachon, north of Bordeaux on the Atlantic coast.

Chiberry set his three top craftsmen to work on the barrels, assembling them simultaneously by hand to ensure they were strictly identical for the purpose of the experiment.

When done – inspired by the challenge – they cycled 150 kilometres to Lemoine’s vineyard in June 2011 with the barrels in tow to see them poured full of the 2009 vintage, already aged nearly two years by this point.

The barrel kept at the chateau was dubbed “Tellus”, after the Roman goddess of the land, and the other “Neptune” after the sea god.

“Neptune” was picked up by Lemoine’s oyster farmer friend Joel Dupuch and rowed out to the low tide mark, where it was chained inside a concrete chamber that kept it protected while letting the water flow in and out.

“The barrel could roll around a little,” as it would if it were lying on the sea bed, Dupuch told the wine lovers and journalists gathered in Paris.

“It was very exposed to the wind and the weather, and it was just opposite the window of my house, so I could keep an eye on it!”

During the very lowest tides it was briefly exposed to the air, around 25 or 30 times over a six-month period.

Both barrels were retrieved in January for the wine to be bottled, tasted and analysed in a laboratory.

“Tellus” turned out to be rather disappointing. But “Neptune” was a good surprise all round.

“When we tasted it it was much better than it should have been,” the expert taster Bernard Burtschy told the Paris gathering. At once mellower and more complex than its on-land relative, he said.

Read more Here.…..but don’t forget to….


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19 Responses to “Underwater French Wine Cellar”

  1. linda tremain says:

    this is one for “believe it or not!”

  2. coleen durst says:

    at last – something NEW in the world of wine!

  3. webster cranston-clark says:

    Considering the French are hemmed in by regulations and tradition in the rest of their wine making activities (AOC, etc) – refreshing to see that these few, at least, are thinking “out of the box!

  4. young kee kwan says:

    very funny this story you make. you like very much the french wine. hopeing to see more exciting story from you. kind regards.

  5. annie lemoin says:

    will you be going to their next tasting?

  6. alvin windersley says:

    if this catches on…scuba gear could be mandatory for french winemakers (lol!)

  7. hilda carstairs says:

    what won’t they think of next!

  8. masters denisson says:

    interestign to note that this method doesn’t seem to be consistently good……as they said one wine was “rather dissapointing.”

  9. larry forsythe says:

    as your commentor masters noted……this “underwater wine” doesn’t always improve with time. interesting to see if other wine makers will experiment with it.

  10. angie hoo says:

    Larry…..doubt that many winemakers will go this route…..for one simple reason – consistency. If you can’t consistently produce a quality wine…your reputation is toast!

  11. anders steinberren says:

    right on angie! – reputation is “job no. 1” in any business!

  12. winthrop perriman says:

    Don’t remember who commented that the Tellus vintage was “rather dissapointing”…and using that as a rationale to state that undersea caving appears inconsistent. WRONG! “Tellus” is the vintage that was stored on land. “Neptune” was the undersea – (improved) vintage.

  13. zelda couverti says:

    Winthrop…is your nickname “eagle eye?”

  14. carlin michaelson says:

    will you be doing a video on this? (serious)

  15. bart stebbens says:

    so..the moral of this story if that we should be stored on wines in the swimming pool? (over the winter, of course)

  16. edgar bronman says:

    although this does sound a little “off the radar”…..when you think about it..it really is logical….because, as they say in the story the romans shipped their wine by sea…..so…some of it had to “fall overboard”

  17. paula bonard says:

    hey edgar……wouldn’t mind some of that wine “fallin overboard” into my swimming pool!

  18. david carrol says:

    with their classic reputation of doing things “by the book”….refreshing to see something experimental from the french!

  19. bucky munster says:

    i’d be willing to test drive a bottle.

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