Crusoe Treasure, Spanish Wines Aged Under the Sea
Underwater wines? Undersea aging? More than a decade has gone by since these ideas were first discussed by two Basque entrepreneurs who founded Crusoe Treasure, the first underwater winery and artificial reef in the world.
Underwater wines? Undersea aging? More than a decade has gone by since these ideas were first discussed by two Basque entrepreneurs. Today we are no longer talking just about ideas, but rather real products that bring together passion for quality wines and passions for the sea and innovation. Its name says it all: Crusoe Treasure. So put on your wetsuit and lets go for a dive in search of some wonderfully unique Spanish wines. We will be joined on this adventure by Anne Riera, a marine biologist and the communications director of this singular Spanish winery.
When did the incredibly innovative idea to create an underwater winery come about? Did you have any particular reference in mind?
In 2007—inspired by documentaries about Cousteau, the Tintín comic books (The Treasure of Rackham the Red) and the discovery of bottles in shipwrecks that were auctioned off for astronomical sums—the lawyer Borja Saracho, an ocean lover and born entrepreneur, presented Joxean Sáez de Ocáriz, the CEO of the INIT group and a passionate innovator, with the idea to start a research project that would look into whether or not wine and other spirits evolve differently at the bottom of the sea. Everything got underway in 2008.
What effect do the sea and the ocean floor have on the aging of wines?
Just being under the sea is, in itself, a totally different setting than that of a traditional winery. The depth, the darkness, the temperature, the lower gravity, the pressure, the currents, the tides, etc., they all have a direct effect on the wine, given that they create very different conditions than what you would find on land.
The wines treasured under the sea, as we refer to our process, evolve differently in these conditions. The red wines have more violet or bluish hues, and the whites are much greener in color. In terms of aromas, plant aromas are minimized, while fruit aromas are more predominant, and the wines are extremely silky on the palate. The tannins are surprisingly-well integrated, yielding extremely balanced wines.
We know that these things happen thanks to all of the scientific and enological research that has been carried out over the years, guided by the expert enologist Antonio T. Palacios. Additionally, to make these differences apparent to everyone, we have created a product called DUET. It consists of two bottles of wine that have been aged with different processes: one having been aged traditionally in a winery, and the other subjected to “undersea treasuring,” which is to say, one bottle with the ocean and the other without.
How do the various lines of Crusoe Treasure wines differ from one another (Sea Soul, Sea Passion and Sea Legend)?
Each of the three collections has a different elaboration process. The underwater wines of the Sea Soul collection are grape-based wines to which the sea provides its maximum evolutionary expression. The Sea Passion wines undergo a longer process in the winery, and also spend more time barrel-aging and “undersea treasuring.”
Sea Legend is our most special and limited collection. It is comprised of special, rarely used varietals made in very small batches, making them true treasures for wine lovers.
What kind of reception have the Crusoe Treasure wines had in international markets? What countries are you in and what are your goals for the years to come?
Our wines have been very well-received on an international level. We are currently in Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, China and Russia, and getting started in Great Britain, among other places. We will soon start selling our wines online in both Italy and France.
What made you decide to work with the grape varieties Albariño, Tinta Fina, Tempranillo, Syrah, Garnacha, Garnacha Blanca and Viognier?
Our treasuring process has led us to work with different grape varieties in order to see how they evolve under the sea. There are so many out there, but not all of them work as single-varieties with the underwater process. Using his knowledge of grapes and areas, Antonio Palacios steers us to the quality vines that have the specific characteristics needed to design our undersea wines.
Is iwine tourism is one of your fundamental marketing tools? Is it helping you generate more brand and name recognition?
For us, wine tourism is not a marketing tool, but rather a way for people to get to know us better. Our winery is very attractive and our visitors love being able to see how we work and how we make our undersea treasures, particularly in a place like Bahía de Plentzia (bay) in Bizkaia, where our underwater cellars are located.
Going out to sea, seeing where the winery is located and the fact that it is also an artificial reef, tasting one of our wines paired with a menu of pintxos, learning about our singular process, are all truly unique experiences.
Finally, how would you rate your experience on the Foods & Wines from Spain marketplace on Amazon?
It is a great opportunity for us and a fantastic showcase where people from other countries can learn about our wines next to other top-quality products.
Text: Rodrigo García / @ICEX
Translation: Adrienne Smith / @ICEX
Photos: Crusoe Treasure.