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The life aquatic for English wine

Published:  13 May, 2021

The UK has joined countries as diverse as Spain and China in creating its first underwater cellar off the Kentish coast.

The project was masterminded by leading online English wine retailer, The English Vine, which partnered with The Whitstable Oyster Company to create a 200-bottle capacity sea storage container, helped by the restaurant team’s knowledge of oyster growing technology.

The team has created “a gyrating pallet of wine”, according to The English Vine, with reds, whites and sparkling wines all now being aged in the sea, from producers including Ridgeview, Nyetimber and Chapel Down.

The bottles will spend a year under the cold Channel waters before being retrieved in April 2022, when a series of blind tastings are planned to help assess what affect, if any, the underwater ageing has delivered.

The English Vine said that the idea was sparked following the discovery of a shipwreck in the Baltic in 2010, which had sunk in 1840. Divers recovered 168 bottles from various Champagne houses, including 46 bottles of Veuve Clicquot that were perceived to be ‘exceptional’ and subsequently sold for high price at auction.

“Here at English Vine we were all inspired by the shipwreck champagne bottle story and the underwater wine ageing process felt like something we wanted to investigate and really get to the bottom of,” said Neil Walker, founder of The English Vine.

“Is this a myth, or really something which could work? We can’t wait to get the results in spring 2022, whatever they may be, when we’ll have expert tasters and scientists working together to find out what it’s all about.”

Fans of English sparkling wines will have to wait a little longer to discover whether this is simply fishy business or if there is a more serious tale to tell regarding the effects of sea-aging on quality wines.