Shipwrecks: The Ideal Place for Wine

Why are wineries in Napa Valley experimenting with underwater wine storage? What is it about underwater storage that has intrigued wine producers around the world? The history of shipwrecks and wines discovered on these wrecks will give us a great indication of what happens to wine when it is submerged in water.

The Titanic, which sank on April 14, 1912, was one of the most devastating shipwrecks of our time. What many aren’t aware of is the fact that the ship sank with thousands of bottles of wine, liquor, and beer still on board. In fact, 1,500 bottles of wine, 20,000 bottles of beer, and 850 bottles of liquor were lost in the wreckage.[1]

Considering the most popular wines at the time, the majority of the wines likely consisted of Champagne, Sauternes, Moselle, Claret, Port, Sherry, Burgundy, and Vermouth. What one would never have imagined is how these wines could last for decades underwater.

Not only have the wines from the Titanic wreck been auctioned off for hundreds of thousands of dollars, but also so have other wines salvaged from other wrecks. But why are wines salvaged from shipwrecks so valuable and able to uphold such quality?

sunken ship

The Underwater Conditions

The reason wines from different shipwrecks excel underwater is because of the storage conditions the water creates. Ideally, for wines to age well, they need to be kept in dark conditions that are constantly cool without disturbances and without oxygen. So, unknowingly, these shipwrecks offer dark areas with stable, cool conditions that have neither oxygen nor much movement. These are the textbook conditions you would need to mature wine well, which is precisely what has happened with these shipwrecked wines.

Other Shipwreck Examples

The Föglö wreck, also known as The Champagne Schooner was a 19th Century shipwreck near Finland was rediscovered by divers in 2010, where over 160 bottles of Champagne were found [2] . These wines were auctioned for over €25 000 each, which highlights the quality of these wines.

The RMS Republic shipwreck is another excellent example where the White Star Ocean Liner hit the SS Florida in 1909.[3] The wreck is often compared to the Titanic, however, not as many lives were lost. The similarities lie with the wines, where several Champagne and Bordeaux bottles were discovered.

These bottles, as well as those of the Titanic and Föglö, stayed intact because of the thickness of Champagne bottles and the underwater conditions. They were perfectly crafted to handle pressure, which is why they lasted for decades.

What has been abundantly clear in each of these shipwrecks is that the underwater environment creates perfect aging conditions. Not only does it prevent oxygen or light from reaching the wine, but it also causes stable, cold conditions.

sunken ship

In addition, the pressured conditions have proven to do exceptionally well for sparkling wines stored underwater. These three shipwreck examples are only three of hundreds of examples. They have unknowingly created innovative ways to store and age well, which could take preference in the future and lead the industry to exceptional matured wines.

Read: The Underwater Wine Cellars Of Edivo Vina Winery, Croatia

  • The Föglö Wreck was a 19th-century shipwreck near the Åland Islands in Finland.
  • RMS Republic shipwreck was a 1903 steam-powered ocean liner that was lost at sea. Fortunately, a distress call was sent out, and as a result, 1,500 lives were saved.





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