Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Wine firm hopes waves will make its bubbly sparkle

PARIS (Reuters) - One of France's oldest champagne producers is testing a new way of ageing its bubbly: on the seabed off northern France.

Louis Roederer wants to find out if its wine tastes better if it is kept in cold sea water and rocked by currents than in the cellars of the city of Reims, where it is normally stored.

Roederer said on Monday it had placed several dozen bottles 15 metres (50 feet) underwater in the bay of Mont Saint-Michel, a rocky tidal island off the coast of Normandy, last weekend.

A cellarman came up with the idea after realising that the water temperature in the bay, a constant 10 degrees Celsius (50.00F), was ideal for ageing wine.

In 12 months' time, Roederer will hold a tasting session to compare champagne from the bottles kept on the seabed with those from its cellars.

Roederer is the first producer to test the unusual ageing method for sparkling wine. Other firms have tried it out in the past four years for still wines, including red Crozes-Hermitage, white Muscadet and white Burgundy.

"It would appear that tides and the cold water had less of an impact on red wines than on white wines," Herve Boucton, commercial director for Roederer, told Reuters.

Roederer, founded in 1776, is one of France's last independent family-owned champagne makers and its bottles are among the most expensive in the country as production is small -- accounting for about 1 percent of total champagne production.

Astrid Wendlandt