Ever since treasure hunters began discovering preserved bottles of champagne in shipwrecks, the idea of sea-aging has fascinated the wine world. Over the last few years, winemaker Michel Drappier has been quietly exploring the technique. This week, Champagne Drappier uncorked the fruits of his work, releasing Immersion, a sea-aged champagne line.
940 bottles of Immersion were submerged for this first run. Three cuvées of Champagne Drappier were used: Brut Nature, Carte d’Or and Grande Sendrée 2008. The bottles are sold in a nifty wooden box alongside an old fashioned cave aged companion (for comparison purposes, of course.) It sounds straightforward, but we had some questions about aging champagne underwater. Fortunately, Charline, Drappier of the famed house had all the
juicy bubbly details for us.
The process is not as simple as throwing some bottles into the nearest body of water. Before submerging a valuable vintage, the producer needed to find a body of water with the right conditions. “We first experimented with immersion in the Bay of St. Malo, which had a shallower bottom of the sea (only 15 meters). And was more subject to very large tides,” Drappier told Neat Pour. “That experiment confirmed our willingness move forward. However, we were looking for a site that would move the bottles a little less, and we were looking for the perfect depth that would balance the pressure inside the bottle.”
Drappier then explained that eventually they settled on a spot near Brest on the Brittany coast. The bottles were submerged at 30 meters, a depth carefully chosen to equal the regular amount of pressure for the gas in the bottles. In addition for making stellar bubbles, the pressure equalization prevents salt water from getting into the bottles.
So, the bottles were loaded into a specially constructed containers from Amphoris and gently lowered to the chosen spot. Each container was sealed on the sides, but not at the top. “They are more like ‘open cases’ that are cracked just enough to let the water inside,” noted Drappier.
Two years later, the containers were pulled from the sea and the results were pretty impressive. The bottles had acquired a crust of minerals and salt, but the champagne inside was superb. “Sea-aged bottles are subject to less oxidation. We have noticed that the wine is fresher, and very balance,” Drappier explained. “It keeps the structure of the wine itself more loyal to what it was when it was first bottled.”
The two bottle sets retail between $200 and 300 a box. They are currently available in Europe. American availability will be dependent on TTB red tape. If they do make their way to the States, expect them to be highly allocated.
So, if you miss out on this batch, don’t fret. Drappier is already at work, making more. A 36 month sea-aged variety is in the works and the house is experimenting with sea-aging their vintage cuvee, Grande Sendrée.