March 07: One has heard and seen a lot of cases by now of ageing of wine under sea/lake water after the successful finding of Champagne bottles a few years ago in a sea wreck, but it was interesting to taste a wine labeled as Nesos by winemaker Antonio Arrighi in Elba, from grapes immersed under sea, writes Subhash Arora who tasted the wine at the Tuscan Tasting in Florence last month and found it savoury and unique white
A unique experiment is being carried out by the winemaker of Azienda Agricola Arrighi, Antonio Arrighi in conjunction with Prof. Attilio Scienza, Professor of Viticulture at the University of Milan, on the Island of Elba off the Tuscan Coast. Angela Zinnai and Francesca Venturi, both lecturers in Viticulture and Oenology at the University of Pisa have also joined hands in the interesting project.
The project tantamounts to following the footsteps of a myth of over a couple of Millennia, known as Nesos-the Sea Wine. In that sense it is a trip back in time to discover the secrets of a mythological wine.
The idea of recreating this ancient winemaking after 2500 years in order to follow a myth was born at Elba where Antonio Arrighi, a small winemaker had been making trials with wine in terracotta jars from Impruneta in Florence for over 10 years, when he heard Professor Scienza talk about his research on the wine from the island of Chios in Greece.
The wines from Chios, a small island in the eastern Aegean, belonged to a narrow-selected group of Greek wines treated as luxury goods on the flourishing market of Marseille and later in Rome. It was considered “wines of the wealthy”. These wines had a distinct savoury taste which was due to the presence of salt due to the practice of placing the grapes into baskets and soaking them in the sea.
He joined hands with Professor Scienza and together they chose Ansonica grapes (common in Sicily) for the project. The grapes were soaked in the sea for 3 days at about 10 meters deep, protected in wicker baskets, as Antonio shared with the audience. Sea salt reached the core during soaking without affecting the grape. The grapes were then placed in terracotta jars along with their skins. The small amount of salt present in the grapes worked as an antioxidant and disinfectant agent. Moreover, they could thus avoid using sulphites, resulting in natural wine - after ageing in the bottle for at least one year. This was very similar to the process 2500 years ago.
Out of the total of 40 bottles made in the first lot in 2018 vintage, 3-4 were opened at a Tasting for special invitee journalists on the first day of Tuscan Tasting at Fortezza di Basso in Florence on 19 February, 2020.
Wines tasted at this Seminar were in dark green bottles with the liquid being golden in colour, with subtle aromas of yellow apples and floral notes. It was very light-medium bodied wine, savoury in flavour but delicate and fresh with slightly salty finish. It definitely had a distinct enviable personality. Antonio did not announce the price but disclosed that he had spent a lot of money on the process and the world’s first sea-wine is expected to be quite experience-both in terms of concept, history and flavours. The latest harvest of 2019 is still in terracotta jars with the skins but Antonio did not disclose the exact number of bottles, except that the number is much higher.
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