Last updated on February 3, 2024
Recently, I discovered a unique gift for the wine lover who has everything. Gifting someone a bottle from Wine of the Sea is an excellent holiday option. The premise is the wine ages in the sea for six months to a year, depending on the variety. In this case, the wines aged in the Adriatic.
I first learned about wines aged under the sea while attending the 360 Experience aboard the Discovery Princess, where we were served an ElixSea Lega Sea 2018, a blend of Grenache, Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah from the Priorat region of Spain. After 12 months of aging in French oak, followed by bottling, the wine ages another six months under the sea, where the bottles gently rock with the ocean’s current.
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Wine of the Sea
Wine of the Sea utilizes a similar principle, but they work with specific wineries that supply the wine to them and then age them for six months to a year underwater at depths ranging from 75 to 100 feet. The wine is placed into a basket and lowered into the sea. Think oyster basket meets a riddling cage for sparkling wine. While submerged, the bottles become encrusted with coral. The idea is that the concept accelerates the aging process by at least five years.
The process is sustainable and environmentally clean. From an ecological standpoint, the cage brings new marine life to an area. Currently, there are about 200 cages that replenish the sea’s ecology.
Wine of the Sea is the only brand permitted by the US FDA to sell cellar wines underwater. This approval took some time to obtain. After a year of evaluation, the FDA approved but required each cork to be inspected. This practice entails removing and replacing the original wax that seals the cork with new wax.
A love of Wine mixed with his passion for the sea was Marko Dusevic’s inspiration for Wine of the Sea. Living and working his mussel and oyster farm on the coast of the Adriatic created the impetus for Marko’s latest venture.
It all began when Marko did not want to carry some wine home. He sunk the wine in the sea. Forgetting about the Wine, Marko came upon the bottles during a dive for mussels. He discovered the coral-encrusted beauty of the bottle. It has taken ten years to perfect the aging process. It is a continuous journey with each variety of Wine. Today, Marko’s Adriatic Shell produces both Coral Wines, his winery for overseas distribution, and Wine of the Sea for consumption in the United States.
Zarko Bogojevic, the owner of BZ Consortium, based in Wisconsin, is the exclusive Wine of the Sea importer in the United States. They import sixteen wines that aged under the sea. They include Amarone, Barbera, Barolo, Chablis, Franciacorta, Montalcino, and Soave. The countries represented include Italy, France, Serbia and Croatia.
The Soave Superiore and Amarone are the most popular wines in the portfolio. For this reason, BZ chose the Soave and Amarone for our tasting. The wines are available in Wisconsin, New York, New Jersey, California, Maryland and Washington D.C.
Our tasting consisted of sampling a white and a red. The white Villa Canestrari Soave Superiore DOCG 2017 consists of 100% Garganega, and the red Villa Canestrari Amarone Della Valpolicella DOCG 2018, a blend of Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara. Interestingly, both chosen wines utilized the appassimento method of drying grapes.
Villa Canestrari is a winery in the Illasi Valley near Verona, Italy. With 150 years and four generations of winemaking, their wine journey began in 1880 when Carlo Bonuzzi started making wine on the estate. The merging of the Bonuzzi and Franchi families created the Villa Canestrari brand in the 1990s. The vineyards’ positioning in the Illasi Valley, where Valpolicella’s limestone terrain overlaps with Soave’s volcanic soil, allows them to produce both Soave and Valpolicella.
Comparing Cellar-Aged Soave Superiore to Aging Under the Sea
Out of curiosity, I wondered about the difference in taste between the wine aged in the cellar and that underneath the sea, and I received these answers:
The cellar-aged Soave Superiore 2017 will seem younger than those aged under the sea. On the nose, the cellar-aged will still retain its primary aromas of peach and quince mixed with white flowers, fresh almonds, and lime. After a time, star anise and vanilla aromas emerge from aging in old oak. The aromas of the Wine follow onto the palate.
The Soave’s texture is perfect for underwater aging with its density and juiciness. The latter comes from a couple of grams of RS, which gives the Wine a high and well-structured acidity that balances out the tendency of sweetness, so the wine is not off-dry, and it is somewhere between medium and full-body.
Underwater-aged Soave Superiore still retains that triangle of yellow fruit – flowers, almonds, and citrus with oaky aromas. The Wine maintains its original character with slight variations due to its aging longer than the cellar-aged Wine.
The quince aromas are riper, and the peach aromas are accented with banana, pineapple, and white flowers that seem slightly more aromatic and spicy. The almond transforms into hazelnuts. The lime reveals a herbaceousness, and the star anise fades.
On the palate, the acidity structure is slightly lower but still high enough to carry the wine structure and hold the Wine in balance. In essence, the Wine has evolved and delivers a fruity, dense character.
Comparing Cellar-Aged Amarone to Aging Under the Sea
The cellar-aged Amarone will display those sour dark cherries on the nose, accompanied by red plums, cocoa, and tobacco. Over time, hints of basil emerge, while graphite comes forward after decanting for some time.
The palate is ideal for underwater aging with sharp acidity and polished tannins, which work harmoniously with the alcohol and near-off-dry texture. A full-bodied wine, this Wine has aging potential.
Underwater aging displays an even darker profile of fruit: cooked black plums, black cherry jam, and dark violets. Cocoa turns to chocolate. Dark rum and cloves dominate over the tobacco from the first Wine. Basil is no longer present. Earthiness and mushrooms overpower the basil.
The underwater aged wine reveals smoothness. The acidity is slightly lower, and the tannins have polymerized compared to the cellar-aged Amarone, which seems due to the constant vibrations of the sea current.
Opening Wine of the Sea
Because Wine of the Sea is encrusted with coral, opening a bottle can be trickier. I recommend placing the bottle on a towel to make clean-up easier. Since each cork is inspected, the original wax is removed and replaced by another layer. It is easiest not to scrape off the wax but rather let the corkscrew penetrate it.
The wines need decanting. For reds, it is best to decant for 45 minutes. For the whites, pour the wine into a simple carafe and store it in the refrigerator.
I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of both wines sampled. As an artist, the coral-encrusted bottle is a work of art, creating an individual character to each bottle as the marine life asserts itself.
Common to the wine industry, this writer received hosted wine samples. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure.
Photo credit for the images on the video goes to Cori Solomon, Adriatic Shell, and Tim Koll.