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You’ve heard of underground cellaring for wine, but never underwater, right? Wrong.
Meet Irina Wiedemann. She is fronting an extraordinary project that blends outstanding wine with a dash of Daniel Defoe and an amazing cellaring concept.
Irina, whom I met at June’s ASUTIL conference in Panama, is coordinating the limited edition launch of Crusoe Treasure (http://www.underwaterwine.com). It’s a brilliant idea, inspired partly by Defoe’s story of Robinson Crusoe who survived as a castaway on a desert island for 30 years, and partly by the discovery in 2010 of a sunken trade schooner 160 feet below in the Baltic Sea. Inside, the vessel divers found 168 bottles of Champagne that, it transpired, had kept beautifully.
According to a report in Smithsonian.com, wine connoisseurs agreed, several of the bottles being auctioned for up to €100,000 a (literal) pop. I quote from the Smithsonian report: “By a stroke of luck, most of the bottles had been preserved in ideal condition – at a depth characterized by minimal light and temperatures ranging between 35 and 39 degrees Fahrenheit. The researchers observed very low levels of acetic acid in the wine, a primary red flag for spoilage. So as part of the testing, the team had a panel of wine experts take a taste. The compiled responses were then compared to the chemical findings.”
Philippe Jeandet, a Professor of food biochemistry at the University of Reims said after a sampling: “It was incredible. I have never tasted such a wine in my life. The aroma stayed in my mouth for three or four hours after tasting it.”
The question was posed. Did deep-sea aging enhance and protect wine during the aging process? The answer was an emphatic yes. Crusoe Treasure was born.
“We have the first and only underwater wine cellar in the world,” Irina tells me. “[After the Baltic tasting] we said ‘OK, why not try something, so we collected wines from 27 different Bodegas in Spain and we started the experiment. We tasted them every month to see the evolution and it was surprising. We would always keep the terrestrial brothers [wines aged in traditional fashion] to compare and the underwater wines would always be better.”
The company’s wines, all fine Spanish expressions (and all certificated), are being aged at around 20 meters depth in the cool waters of the Atlantic Ocean in a bay near to the northern Spanish city of Bilbao. “We chose this area because we have the right currents, a combination of huge waves coming from the ocean and the currents from the river, so what we wanted to achieve is lots of movement,” says Irena. “Then we have this huge structure [to hold the wines]. It’s like a huge cement cage with windows, so the currents can go through.
“We actually have created the cellar to be an artificial reef. And now we have over 2,000 species living with us. It’s incredible.”
So are the wines. You’ll have to wait a few days for the full story which I’ll bring you in an enthralling interview and profile of the company. But let me leave you with some thoughts. First, the wines are outstanding. I tried an underwater-aged Ribera del Duero, one of my favourite Spanish wine regions and it was stunning. Second, what a superb gift idea (especially at around €185) such wines would make for travel retail, notably in the cruise business. But why not just about anywhere? I am convinced that travel retail’s future lies in increasing the ratio of products that cannot be procured elsewhere – not in the High Street, not on Amazon, not on Alibaba.
How much more exclusive could you get than this – the world’s only ‘underwater wines’? Imagine if, say, Dufry (through its new World Duty Free acquisition in Spain) was to offer these wines in duty free/travel retail, ideally exclusively. Can you imagine they would not sell?
And why stop there? Why not DFS or Heinemann (these would be gobbled up at the Heinemann Arrivals duty free shop in Oslo) or any national travel retailer such as JR/Duty Free in Australia, or LS travel or Aer Rianta International in New Zealand? And here’s the thing. Crusoe Treasure doesn’t plan to stop with the waters or wines of Spain. It’s actively looking for winemaking partners around the world. Can you imagine what, say, a New Zealand Pinot Noir from Central Otago or Marlborough or Martinborough might taste like with a little extra aging in the cool waters of the Pacific?
How about a French Bordeaux aged in the icy waters off Bergen for the good citizens of Oslo? Would it work? Who knows? You might end up with Icewine. But what fun finding out. Oh my taste buds are already salivating. Watch this (underwater) space.
*If you’re interested in talking to Irina let me know and I’ll put you in touch. My interview with her will appear soon on The Moodie Report.com