Underwater Wine, A Sparkling Story

August 25, 2011

Piero Lugano, a 63 year old Italian native artist-come-winemaker, has begun making wine - underwater! Lugano began selling wine in Chiavari (on the Italian Riviera) in 1978 but quickly realized that he wanted a more active role in the winemaking process. Ten years ago, Lugano began making sparkling wines from local indigenous grapes in the region - and quickly realized that Houston, we have a problem. Between his crowded studio and small winery, there was no where to store and age the wine! So this eminently creative individual turned to his other life long love, the sea. In an interview with the New York Times Lugano recalled, “a light bulb went on in my head: I thought, why not put the wine under the sea?”

This may seem like an incredibly strange idea to some, but not to Lugano. In fact, this plan has more than a few merits: “It’s better than even the best underground cellar, especially for sparkling wine. The temperature is perfect, there’s no light, the water prevents even the slightest bit of air from getting in, and the constant counterpressure keeps the bubbles bubbly. Moreover, the underwater currents act like a crib, gently rocking the bottles and keeping the lees moving through the wine.”

The next step? Goverment approval. Known for their mountains of red tape and bureaucracy, the Italian government was surprisingly on board! After consulting the Agriculture Ministry about potential pollution and ecosystem risks (of which the impacy was assessed at minimal to none), the plan was approved. 13 months later and the first batch of protected bottles are hoisted from the sea floor and opened to reveal -- a darn good wine: "[w]hen first poured, the bubbles come rushing up to the surface of the glass like sea foam at high tide, but then quickly relax into a fine perlage. The color is pale golden-yellow with greenish reflections, while the aroma suggests caramelized lemon peel and dried flower petals with hints of baked apple and allspice. On the palate it is surprisingly soft, leading into ripe, almost sweet, white peach followed by bracing acidity and a dry mineral finish."

The second batch of wine, christened Abissi (Italian for 'depths'), was a 2009 vintage and opened on July 2, 2011, is said to be on its way to the US market. Availability, quantity and price are not yet available. 

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