Almost exactly a year ago, the winemakers of Mira Winery in Napa hauled up a case of its 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon from the ocean. The wine, which had been chilling in a bright yellow, custom-built case in the Charleston Harbor for three months, was part of a grand experiment to see how a wine's aging process would be influenced by the ocean. (The experiment was conducted in South Carolina, not here, because the winery's owner's roots are on the East Coast.)
But it was more than just a publicity stunt. Yesterday the team raised seven cases of 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon that had been down there for six months, and left one case down there for another six.
What they found when they raised the three-month-aged bottles from the water was extraordinary, according to Gutavo Gonzalez, Mira winemaker -- the wine had aged more rapidly than its on-land counterparts, meaning that it was much looser and more relaxed than bottles of the same wine that had been aged in the air.
At the time, Gonzales and Patrick Emerson, an advanced sommelier who also tasted the wine, suggested that the ocean's relatively stable temperature, lack of light, and the rocking motion of the waves could be to blame. When the wine was sent to a Napa Valley lab for testing, the primary difference between land- and ocean-aged wine was its tubidity (clarity).
They're now analyzing the six-month-aged bottles, which were retrieved from the water yesterday. They'll do a full chemical analysis and blind taste test with a panel of wine experts to see how the wine's time in the ocean impacted its flavor. If they see some of the same results from the three-month-aged wine -- or if the aging process has been even more accelerated in double the time -- it could have a major impact on how the wine industry views aging.