Soif d'ailleurs, Amphoris and underwater cellars
29 sept.

Soif d'ailleurs, Amphoris and underwater cellars

                                                                                                           

The spent one year at the bottom of the sea. We tasted them.

They have spent one year at the bottom of the sea. Their twin sisters stayed either in XIIth century Cistercian caves or in Soif d’ailleurs’ sanctus sanctorum.

Some, occasionally visited by jellyfish, have surprised starfish, caught the attention of sea bass, intrigued the squids. 

They lost their labels, covered themselves with a crust of sea-life. Nothing moves, down there, very little light, a constant temperature of 11 to 13 ° C. Their twins stayed in darkness, at a similar temperature, awaiting the big family gathering. A little bored, there were no cuttlefish or lobsters to chat with.

                                                                                               

They came from very different horizons.

Some came from Champagne, from Urville, to be precise, in the côte des Bar.

Drappier, la Grande Sendrée 2006

From Tuscany, where a professor of archaeology resuscitates ancient methods and varietals. Guido Gualandi makes the  foglia tonda, already mentioned by Columella during the first century A.D., archaeological and delicious, the Gualandus, old clones of sangiovese elaborated sticking to the principles of Pietro de Crescenzi, who wrote a manual on viticulture at the beginning of the XIVth century, the vinum bianco and the vinsanto.

Guido Gualandi, Foglia Tonda 2011

Foglia tonda, I.G.T. Rosso toscano

Guido Gualandi, Gualandus 2006

Sangiovese, I.G.T. Rosso Toscano

Guido Gualandi, Vinum Bianco 2008

Malvasia lunga, trebbiano coda di cavallo, I.G.T. Bianco di Toscana

Guido Gualandi, Vinsanto 2008

Malvasia lunga, trebbiano coda di cavallo, I.G.T. Bianco di Toscana

Last, but not least, from  Pokolbin. You know where it is, of course, next to Cessnock in the Hunter Valley. It is north of Sydney ; there are kangaroos, koalas, Aussies and vines. The kangaroos hop, the koalas are cute, the Aussies make wine.

Brokenwood Cricket Pitch Red 2011

Cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, merlot, petit verdot

Brokenwood Cricket Pitch White 2011

Semillon, sauvignon blanc

These two bottles were sealed with screwcaps.

The divers and the terrestrials were reunited at Soif d’ailleurs, waiting for a blind tasting 

                                                                                                            

Bottles have been immerged before. However, it is the first time that they were sent so deep, 60 metres. More importantly, for the first time, two wines, the old salts and the landlubbers, were submitted to a physico-chemical analysis. Régis Gougeon, professor at the IUVV, Institut universitaire de la vigne et du vin in Dijon, came to present the results of the analyses conducted together with Vinéo, a Beaune laboratory. The opportunities to work on such material are fairly uncommon, the scientists didn’t stop at that. The laob managed by Philippe Schmitt-Kopplin at Munich university conducted a mass spectrometry analysis, a technique that allows qualification and quantification of the molecular recombination, thus characterising the molecular complexity of a wine.

First and totally unscientific finding : the result is beautiful.

                                                                                                            

As far as the sparklings go, no problem. At this depth, the inner and outer pressures equal out. Still wines are trickier. The bottle and the cork are submitted to a pressure of 6 atmospheres. But Amphoris has found the right solution to protect the cork from the sea water.

                                                                                     

The solution had to be attacked with a bread knife. Pierre Recoules, one of the founders of Amphoris, volunteered. After all, it is not more dangerous than opening an oyster. He’s from Brittany, he must know.

We also openend two bottles of Foglia Tonda, one diver, one cellar-dweller.

Sara Gualandi, the daughter of the professor and winemaker, was the first to give her opinion. But shhh! No spoilers !

                                                                                               

The room was ready, the glasses numbered, the bottle duly covered.

                                                                                             

Then the guests arrived..

Régis Gougeon explained the results of his research. He will publich a few articles on the subject, but let us reveal the main points :

  •          The ageing process tends to be slower
  •          Total SO2 is stable
  •          The reds are redder
  •          The molecular signature is different.

                                                                                              

Mais la dégustation ? Ah, oui ! Le plus important, après tout.

 

But how does it taste ! Right, that’s the most important point, isn’t it ?

 

First tasting : Drappier, La Grande Sendrée 2006.

Let’s start with the champagne. Charline Drappier talks about her product, with passion. Then, the blind tasting.

                                                                                                     

Everyone agrees. It is a great champagne. But everyone agrees on another point : the two wines are different. Impossible to say, of course, which was under see and which stayen on the mainland. But theay are, clearly and distinctly different.

As to which one was better, there was no clear majority.

While serving it, we noted that the bubbles of the immerged bottle were more vigorous and its oxydation less pronounced.

Second tasting : Brokenwood Cricket Pitch White 2011

It is a blend of Semillon and sauvignon blanc of the Hunter Valley. Brokenwood is a small producer who crafts some of the most sought after wines of Australie.

The screwcap had perfectly resisted its one-year sojourn among the sea-creatures.

Again, a notable difference. The immerged wine is rounder, smoother, the acidity subdued. Lots of talk around the two bottles. No clear winner, but, nonetheless, a majority for the immerged bottle.

Third tasting : Gualandi Foglia Tonda 2011

Few more than three hundred bottles of this vintage. A revived, ancient varietal, an exceptional wine.

Sealed with natural cork, they have unequally resisted the Breton jacuzzi. Some were capped with the hard wax used by the winery, some with the Amphoris solution, which proàved flawless.

The one we opened offers vibrant fruit aromas, but a rounded structure, as if it had been polished with pumice, edges planed. Acidity appears lower than its sister’s, aged on land. Sara Gualandi finds it hard to recognise the taste of the wine of suo padre, albeit she recognised its nose instantly. Others think the immerged wine too well-behaved.

Decidedly, an experiment to explore further.

Fourth tasting : Brokenwood Cricket Pitch Red 2011

Shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, petit verdot. Send all these players to a crickt pitch and kick off the game. That’s what they do in Pokolbin.

Here again, a resistant screw cap. The aromatic profile of the immerged wine is well preserved when compared to the sample that stayed in Paris. In the mouth, however, everyone notes a change in tanins and freshness, even though the acidity is higher in the Foglia than in the Australian blend. Saying that there are clear-cut opinions would be somewhat of an overstatement, but the immerged wine is deemed smoother and everyones wonders what would happen with a longer immersion.

 

Summing it up, the immersion is more the a gimmick to amuse the octopus and provide the lobsters with decent housing. The immerged wine is always markedly different from his dry-footed sibling, always of great quality.

Other blind tastings for still or sparkling wines have resulted in a near-unanimous preference for the immerged wine.

And even if you don’t agree on preferences, you’ll have unmitigated success when serving both bottles for comparison.

And It’ll make a pretty table.