Ancient wines have a moment in Italy. Here’s why.
It was a calm and balmy morning in September 2018 when winemaker Antonio Arrighi first dipped a basket of grapes into the Mediterranean Sea. His neighbors on the sun Italian the island of Elba looked on in disbelief. “Has Antonio gone mad? “
Indeed, as the bunches sank under the water, where they would remain five days, Arrighi felt a stroke of mad genius. He resuscitated the process of creating sea wine, an ancient Greek delicacy said to be popular with Julius Caesar.
The connection of the golden drink to the Tuscan archipelago runs deep. Remains of Greek amphorae (terracotta wine jars) have been found on the seabed not far from the Arrighi vineyards. The merchants of the Greek island of Chios often stopped at Elba Island, rich in minerals, on their return trip from Marseille, France, where sea wine was a popular commodity, explains Attilio Scienza, professor of viticulture at the University of Milan who collaborated with Arrighi.
This month, the specialty drink returns to the market for the first time in over 2,000 years, Cave Arrighi launches 240 bottles of ‘Nesos’ wine, which is another reason to visit Elba island, beyond its some 70 beaches, Etruscan ruins and Roman villas.
Arrighi is one of the many winemakers who have contributed to the revival of ancient wine-making techniques in Italy. There is a growing interest here in recreating small batches of natural and sustainable wines from bygone eras. After all, a bottle with a story has always been of value, and they are time machines for taste.
An immersive company
Few libations have been shrouded in mystery quite like sea wines. Despite their popularity in ancient Rome, as the historian documents Pliny the Elder, the Chios winegrowers kept the method under lock and key. Turns out their secret was to immerse the grapes in salt water, a process that naturally removes the white, waxy bloom from the surface and allows the fruit to dry quickly in the sun. This preserves more aromas, creating a robust taste unlike anything else.