The millennia-old technique of making marine wine revived by Italian viticulturists makes it possible to savor an Ancient Greek delicacy.
Back in 2018, Italian winemaker Antonio Arrighi submerged a basket of grapes into the Mediterranean Sea. He was resurrecting the process of creating marine wine, an old tradition that was invented in Ancient Greece.
The Tuscan Archipelago had deep connections with the Ancient Greeks. Archaeologists have found remnants of Greek terra-cotta wine jars on the seafloor not far from Arrighi’s vineyards. According to Attilio Scienza, a viticulture professor at the University of Milan, Greek merchants would often stop at the Italian island of Elba on their way back from Marseille, France, where marine wine was in high demand.
Last year, the special wine returned to the market after 2,000 years thanks to Arrighi, who released 240 bottles of “Nesos” wine.
The process for making marine wines was kept a secret by the Greek winemakers. Historians found out that their secret was submerging the grapes in saltwater to naturally remove the waxy white surface bloom and to allow the grapes to dry quickly under the sun. This method helps preserve more aromas.
To resurrect this process, Arrighi asked the help of three divers. They tried immersing Ansonica grapes in handwoven lobster traps at various depths and durations. Then, Arrighi fermented the grapes and their skins in terra-cotta jars.
The first harvest produced only 40 bottles, which were analyzed by a team from the University of Pisa. Thanks to the results of the analysis, Arrighi was able to adjust his methods for the second harvest, which resulted in his first batch of marketable bottles.
Thanks to the small amount of salt in the grapes, there was no need to add sulfites, stabilizers, preservatives, or yeast. Additionally, the marine wines have a total phenolic content–responsible for antioxidant activity–which is double that of regular white wines.
I’ve never drunk a wine like this in my life. It allows you to journey through time and appreciate the beginnings of wine making. It allows you to better understand the secrets of nature.Antonio Arrighi
But Arrighi is not the only one recreating historic fermented beverages from past eras. Even in the city of Pompei in the Campania Region of Italy, winemakers have tried to recreate Ancient Roman wine.
By studying evidence of grapes buried under the ash of Mount Vesuvius’ eruption in A.D. 79, the Mastroberardino winery and archaeologists were able to identify and replant the native grapes in their original plots. This led to the production of annual batches of a red vintage, Villa dei Misteri, since 2001.
It’s these innovations and experimentations that resurrect ancient flavors of the past that are once again filling glasses.