It looks like Mira Winery's days of ocean-aging wine could be over. A pioneer in the ocean-aging game, Mira has submerged bottles off of Charleston harbor, dubbing the process Aquaoir. But now, according to The Post & Courier
the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in conjunction with the the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) have issued a warning regarding the practice
The FDA has advised us that aging wine in a way that bottle seals have contact with
sea or ocean waters may render these wines adulterated under the FD&C Act in that
they have been held under unsanitary conditions whereby they may have become
contaminated with filth or may have been rendered injurious to health (21 U.S.C. §
The specific issue:
“gasoline, oil, heavy metals, plastics, drug residues, pesticides, as well as various types of filth, including waste materials from biological sources, sludge, decaying organic matter, runoff from farms, effluents from sewage treatment plants, and bilge waters from vessels,”
We spoke to Mira Winery President Jim “Bear” Dyke Jr. this morning, and he calls the warning a manufactured crisis. "You're telling me Charleston Harbor is filled with sewage, but it's OK to swim in?" Dyke says. "It's basically the description of water after a hurricane. If the water is as they described, the least of their concerns should be eight cases of sealed wine."
Dyke adds that Mira's ocean-aging enterprise was never meant as a for-profit venture anyway. "The point was to engage in an experiment," he says, adding that the FDA has yet to do any chemical analysis on Mira's aquaoir bottles or examine the seals post-harbor aging which Mira has done and never found an adulterated seal.
In keeping with the experiment, this past year Dyke says Mira went on a seven-city tour and had 18 people blind taste test the ocean-aged bottles against traditionally aged wines. The conclusion? The majority of taste-testers, he says, identified the ocean-aged as older wines, proving his point that submerging wines expedites the aging process, information he thinks could revolutionize the wine industry. But Dyke claims he never had plans to dump a 1,000 bottles underwater to age and then sell. "If you figure out the favorable element, you can use that to age wine more quickly on land," he says.
For now Dyke says Mira is trying to get more information from the FDA and TTB and has hired legal council.