By Federico Cornett
A winemaker who leaves his sparkling wine on the sea bottom claims his bubbly never gets old if it’s aged underwater.
Every autumn, winemaker Piero Lugano gathers his team of scuba divers to bring several boxes of the bubbly, which is made like champagne, back under the sunlight after months spent in the sea depths outside of Sestri Levante, Italy.
The entrepreneur’s team take a few boats and a barge with a crane to the waters under which the bottles lie, they then send the divers down to tie the boxes with ropes.
Piero, who is a former art professor and has studied marine archaeology, said: “Wine came to modern civilisation through sealed amphoras found on the sea floor, where it was conserved in its liquid form.
“This led me to think and realise that underwater spaces are great for the conservation of organic substances.
“This is because of the constant temperature, limited light and lack of oxygen, all factors that are present in the underground cellars where wine is normally kept.”
Piero launched his winemaking company, Bisson, in 1978, as a parallel project to his academic career.
As he realised the company was taking off he decided to devote himself to it full-time, however, it was only in 2008 that he started making bubbly.
He says: “Our territory in the Italian region of Liguria is a tight stretch of land close to the sea and the soil is rich with mineral salts.
“This means our grapes are incredibly sapid and great for making sparkling wine, although nobody had ever done that in Liguria.”
The lack of a cellar for his bubbly led Piero to think of the creative solutions and take the wine 45 metres below the sea surface to age.
Piero then retrieves the bottles and sells them with algae, sea shells, starfish, little crabs and sometimes even tiny fish that got stuck to the glass.
He says: “All the bottles are kept on the sea floor for not less than 14 months, but some of them have been there for 4 or 5 years.
“In the cellars, there is a slow but steady exchange between wine and oxygen, which means that eventually the wine gets oxidised.
“That doesn’t happen on the sea floor where a bottle can be kept for decades, which is extraordinary considering it’s sparkling wine.
“When we sell the final product, we keep the little sea organisms that got stuck onto the glass, but we seal the bottles with a film and treat them so that it’s safe.”