It’s troublesome to discover a dangerous bottle of wine in Croatia—afterall, the nation has been perfecting its craft for over 2,000 years. Most oenologists (wine specialists) within the area typically follow the winemaking strategies honed throughout millenia, however one renegade vineyard is breaking custom. I traveled throughout the Atlantic, hopped on a ferry in coastal Ploče, and rumbled down the unfrequented streets of the nation’s most well-known winemaking area in pursuit of a very distinctive inebriant aged in Croatia’s first underwater vineyard.
Edivo Vina vineyard is within the city of Drače on a skinny strip of land referred to as the Pelješac Peninsula connected to the Dalmatian coast. The mainland is break up alongside the political faultlines of the previous Yugoslavia—a five-mile wedge of Bosnia and Herzegovina referred to as Neum slices Croatia into two items. Once I visited, vacationers needed to take a ferry to the port in Trpanj or cross the Bosnia and Herzegovina border to get to Drače. Now, a long-anticipated bridge shortens the commute between the island and the mainland. “We’ve been ready for this bridge for 30 years,” Edivo Vina wine bar supervisor Nevena Pandža tells me on the morning we arrive. The bridge would open, in a flurry of fireworks, only one month after I landed again in San Francisco.
The relative inaccessibility of the world makes our quest really feel extra adventurous one way or the other, like we’re trying to find a real sunken treasure. Our prize is Navis Mysterium. Plucked from the ocean after spending as much as two years at a depth of 65 ft, the wine has been rocked to sensory perfection by the light swell of the ocean. The title of the wine actually interprets to “the Ship’s Secret” as a result of the bottles are housed inside a Sport of Thrones prop ship that the vineyard sank offshore. Scuba-certified guests can dive down and see the underwater wine for themselves, led by the three vineyard homeowners who’re lifelong divers and PADI instructors. “Individuals see the ship and are available again joyful,” Pandža tells me. “You possibly can see one thing in photographs or movies however once you truly dive down and contact the bottle, that’s actually one thing wonderful.”
My buddy Kevin and I are visiting the vineyard to witness the whole course of from sea to glass. We tour the wine cellar first, then head to the dock for our dive. The solar is sizzling as we switch our gear onto Edivo Vina’s small skiff and motor as much as a floating dock. We big stride off the dock and descend 10 ft, the place a rope connected to the pier is ready to information us to the ship. The visibility is worse than in different areas of Croatia, so I’m grateful for the road. A hazy dusting of high quality particulate hangs within the water column obscuring the scale of the ship as we strategy. Greater than 20 crates are stacked on the deck, every one crammed with inverted amphorae. Somebody has cheekily positioned a plastic skeleton holding a sword on the helm of the ship, a treasure chest crammed with faux-gold cash at its ft.
Underneath the waves, this wine enjoys good growing old situations: It’s insulated from mild, stored at a constant temperature and secure from air—oxygenation is a formidable foe to fermenting grapes, explains Giuseppe Cossu, a Sardinian sommelier. Growing old wine underwater is a apply that has been round for millennia, he says, however it hasn’t at all times adopted the identical course of as Edivo Vina’s. “In Sardinia there’s at the very least one producer who’s experimenting with submerging the grapes in cages and maintaining them there for a interval earlier than crushing and fermenting them. This therapy is extra to ‘sanitize’ the grapes with the seawater, and add sapidity to the wine,” Cossu says. However Edivo’s practices have been perfected and honed through the years and thru many, many damaged and ruined bottles.
“All the pieces that might have gone flawed, went flawed,” Pandža says. Throughout their first couple of years, the staff misplaced half of the wine they tried to sink, largely as a result of saltwater intrusion. However now the method is as well-oiled as an Italian olive. The bottles are positioned in locally-made clay amphorae, that are then crammed with insulating foam. The bottles are sealed, with wax after which cement, to maintain seawater out and wine in. Edivo Vina additionally ages some “bare” bottles with out the clay amphorae. These are connected to ropes and dangle within the water, an growing old course of that requires fewer variables and is much less difficult.
After two years, the bottles are eliminated, cleaned and soaked in contemporary water for one month after which dried within the cellar earlier than they’re offered as wine with “a bit little bit of sea in it,” Pandža says. The completed bottles are encrusted with marine traces, like oyster shells and invertebrate casings, and perched on handmade iron stands. They appear extra like artwork than wine.
Unboxing the ultimate product is Pandža’s favourite a part of the job: “I like seeing individuals’s faces the second I open the field, and so they go: ‘Wow!’” she says. That response explains why guests are prepared to shell out the 2875 kuna (about $370) for every utterly one-of-a-kind bottle.
Whereas Navis Mysterium’s course of is exclusive, it’s anchored in a deep tradition. “In each home in Croatia, wine is at all times included in life,” Pandža says, “I first tried wine once I was three or 4 years previous. My grandparents would take a finger of wine and fill the remainder of the cup with water and that was juice for us.”
Again on the tasting room after our dive, we attempt a side-by-side comparability. To my shock, the wine that had spent two years underwater was noticeably totally different from the cellar-aged wine, even to my novice style buds. The stress has deepened the flavors, bringing out a richness that sends a jolt of heat by my nitrogen-laden physique as I sink into the indulgence of the second. It lingers on the again of the palate far longer than I can maintain it between my tooth. The salt on my higher lip mingles with the flavors dancing throughout my tongue—a little bit of sea in each sip.
Have to Know
Value: Edivo Vina dives embrace a ship tour, a full-flight tasting of their underwater wines (which is accompanied by an area snack platter of fish, cheese, home made gluten-free bread, and smoked meats), and a bottle of undersea wine to take house. The price of the tour and tasting is €200 or €240 based mostly on the inclusions. Excursions will be booked at edivovina.hr.
Topside Tip: Head into Trstenik, a brief drive from the vineyard on some very windy slender roads, to take pleasure in a scenic Mediterranean meal and native oysters at D’ORO Bar & Grill. For those who’re fortunate, you may even get to attempt some home made liqueur whilst you dine on the spacious waterfront terrace.