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The Drop

by Francisca Van Zeller

20 October, 2023

It was during a friendly dinner in the summer of 2022, with the company of my husband and friends Cláudio Martins and Cláudia Borges, that Cláudio brought out a white wine that had been resting under water. It wasn’t the first time I tasted a wine aged under water; however it brought back the topic to the table.

Cláudio Martins talked about his new project with Joaquim Parrinha, a passionate diving instructor and investigator of sea life. They both set up Adega do Mar, where wines age calmly at the bay of Sines, in the south of Portugal, where the waters are calm and cool throughout the year.

I asked if they had any Ports under water, and the answer was no. In fact, there had never been a bottle of Port wine to be placed underwater to age. The challenge was set. I called my father, who immediately became enthusiastic about the idea and said that the best experiment would be to try with a bottle of Vintage Port, a wine created to age in bottle, and see how ageing it in the sea would influence its exuberance of fruit and wine structure. It would certainly be differently to the one kept up on ground.

We set up the whole process, with the support of the IVDP. Two baskets were sent up from Sines to our warehouse in São João da Pesqueira, they were filled with bottles of Van Zellers & Co Vintage Port 2020 to a total of 102. They were sealed and set down to Sines to be placed underwater.

On the 7th of December, I drove down to dive the bottles. It was my first dive ever. I first practiced with the oxygen bottle for a few minutes and was ready to go. The cases dropped with a rope to 10 meters deep. I depressurized once and let myself be taken by the weight of the bottles to the rock where they would rest for the next year. I stayed underwater for 26 minutes, where I got to know the surrounding environment. We filmed this dive, though I certainly will never forget it.
A few images and clips of it can be seen here.

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