U.S. vs. Wine Research

Back in November 2013 I reported on a unique tasting of wine that had been submerged in Charleston Harbor for three months. scuba diverNapa’s Mira Winery conducted the experiment with four cases of their 2009 Cabernet, then travelled around the country holding comparative tastings of the ocean-aged wine against the normal, land-based version. Virtually all of the attendees at the Palm Beach event felt there was a significant difference between the two, although most couldn’t tell which wine was which.

   Was it a publicity stunt? Probably, but an interesting one. The folks at Mira conducted the experiment in a sincere attempt to discover the secrets of how and why a wine ages. They have repeated the test several times since, and submerged another eight cases of Cabernet about six months ago.

   That wine will be coming to the surface on Wednesday, thanks to pressure from the federal government. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau threatened to revoke the winery’s license if they did not cease and desist from selling or serving the wine. In addition, the FDA issued a formal public advisory on the dangers of ocean-aged wine.

   This is curious, given that the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products is legal in this country. So are energy drinks, and so is marijuana in many states. Apparently, though, the danger of consuming those substances pales in significance compared to a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon that has been submerged in water.

   The ATT feels that the wine is unfit for human consumption because it has been “held under unsanitary conditions.” If that is indeed the case, get ready for a federal ban on truly harmful substances such as fish and shellfish. You can never be too careful.

   “As a small business in a highly competitive industry, we out of necessity want to stand out through innovation,” said Jim Dyke Jr., president of Mira Winery. “The aging process was the logical place to start.”

   Such men are obviously dangerous, but fortunately we have the government to protect us against them—if left unchecked, Mr. Dyke might soon be claiming that the world is round and that the earth revolves around the sun.


Mark Spivak is the author of Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History (Lyons Press, 2012) and Moonshine Nation (Lyons Press, 2014); for more information, go to amazon.com

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