Would you ever believe that thousands of sparkling #Wine bottles are now resting (and fizzing) under the sea of a windy bay close to Portofino, in the Italian Riviera, to age for a 12 or 18-month period at a 200 foot depth? It is not a fairy tale, but the globally unique method used by the Bisson winery to produce three of its best wines: Spumante Classico, Spumante Riserva and, from 2015, Spumante Rosè.
The genial idea came roughly ten years ago to the winemaker Pierluigi Lugano, who has now produced wine for over 35 years: “Being an experienced diver, I knew of ancient wrecked ships under the sea that had repeatedly returned food (and wine) very well preserved. So, by combining my passion for the wine and the sea, I thought that the seabed could become the ideal environment for wine to age in terms of light and temperature” he says in his strong Genoese accent.
Since the start of the project, Pierluigi has heavily relied on the operational skills of his daughter Marta: “I would not be here now without her motivation and support,” he says.
The peculiarity of this winemaking method is that fermentation of wine happens under the sea (in lieu of the traditional cellars), where the bottles are beneficially “cradled” by the sea. Every July, the bottles are lowered into the sea in stainless cages. “This is the most difficult moment, as streams and waves can make the operation quite tricky” says Marta Lugano, who heads the winery operations.
The three wines – all marketed under the evocative brand “Abissi” - are entirely made with indigenous grapes: Bianchetta, Cimixià and Vermentino for the Spumante, Granaccia and Ciliegiolo for the Spumante Rosè. These grapes are cultivated on the gentle hills of Liguria, relatively close to the sea shore, as evidenced by the salty back-taste of the ensuing wines.
Not only is the flavour of these wines extremely influenced by the marine environment; indeed, when the wine bottles are picked up, they are enriched with incrustations, seaweeds (and sometimes shellfishes, too). Thus, every bottle is unique. For health and sanitary reasons, bottles are then dried and wrapped under a protective, clear film, which also serves the purpose of preserving the natural ornament made by the sea.
Thirty people are involved in the production process. Sales are increasing and next year they should reach 30,000 bottles, against the 18,000 produced in 2015. Alongside Italy, the main markets are the U.S., China, Japan, France, Switzerland and Germany. In the UK, there are only limited sales.
The Luganos like to look forward to new projects, restlessly: “Our long-term dream is to create a vineyard on a dismissed aircraft carrier; this way, my father will no longer feel guilty for neglecting the sea when he oversees the cultivation of the grapes” Marta announces gaily. “We have already made some studies and the idea appears feasible - albeit financially demanding”.
We will keep following with much eagerness and curiosity the next steps of the Abissi Italian wine! Only people crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who achieve something…even through a new winemaking method, a new flavour, a new fascinating wine story. #Libiamo #Italian Lifestyle