Exton Park to launch UK’s first sea-aged wines
Hampshire-based Exton Park has joined the industry trend of underwater wine ageing. Exton Park will release sea-aged sparkling wine later this year, becoming the first winery in the UK to do so.
While high-quality sparkling wines often require ageing, the process traditionally takes place on dry land. The underwater ageing technique is a new and surprising one.
In 2010, divers in the Baltic sea discovered 168 bottles of Champagne – trapped on a sunken ship and inadvertently aged for centuries. When tasted, the wine had a unique, full-bodied flavour. Underwater wineries have been created since then off the coasts of Croatia, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Chile and South Africa.
Joining the movement, Exton Park submerged 200 bottles of its 2014 vintage Blanc de Blancs in 2018. The wine was deposited 60 metres below sea level off the coast of Brest in Brittany.
Simultaneously, Exton Park aged the same variety of wine 60 metres above sea level. The sister wines – named ’60 Above’ and ’60 Below’ – were then sampled side by side last year.
Storing each bottle on the sea floor costs an estimated £13 per bottle. Despite being an expensive and difficult process, Exton Park believes the excellent results make sub-sea storage worthwhile.
“We found that the sea-aged wine was more rounded with greater depth in mouthfeel and it had softer, riper flavours than the ‘60 Above’,” said the vineyard’s managing director, Kit Ellen.
Deep water creates the effect of a natural cellar, as the wine is kept at a constant temperature in total darkness. The conditions allow the resulting flavours, colours and aromatics to be amplified.
The technique has become increasingly popular throughout the UK. Online wine merchant, The English Vine, cellared 200 bottles under the sea in 2021. The English wines are still 25 metres underwater off the coast of Kent, waiting to emerge.
Exton Park plans to release both ’60 Above’ and ’60 Below’ in time for Christmas 2023.