1,700 Bottles of Sparkling Wine Spent Six Months Beneath the Waters of the Norwegian Sea

The stash was submerged some 111 feet deep in temperatures as cold as 41 degrees Fahrenheit

man wearing safety gear touches crate filled with wine hanging from crane
Crews carefully lowered the bottles to a depth of 111 feet below the surface. Hurtigruten Norway

For shipwreck hunters, finding intact bottles of wine at the bottom of the ocean, along with other goods and supplies that would’ve made the journey more comfortable, isn’t uncommon. What’s much less common, however, is lowering perfectly good bottles of vino into the sea—on purpose.

But that’s exactly what the teams at Hurtigruten and Rathfinny Wine Estate did late last year. The longstanding Norwegian cruise line and the British winery teamed up to run an experiment nicknamed Havets Bobler, or Bubbles From the Sea, to help celebrate Hurtigruten’s 130th anniversary.

Red wax on top of wine bottles
The bottles were sealed with wax before being submerged. Hurtigruten Norway

The project involved carefully submerging 1,700 wax-sealed bottles of sparkling wine about 111 feet deep in the Norwegian Sea. At a secret, remote location near northern Norway, not far from the Arctic Circle, the wine spent six months underwater at an average temperature of 41 degrees Fahrenheit.

In May, crews raised the bottles to the surface and tasted them to see what difference, if any, the time spent in chilly waters made to the sparkling wine’s taste, consistency and effervescence.

Because of the cold temperatures, the lack of light and the higher pressure exerted on the bottles underwater, the team hypothesized that the final product would have softer bubbles and a rounder mouthfeel. But, ultimately, that was “all speculation,” as Tani Gurra, Hurtigruten Norway’s beverage director, tells Decanter’s Martin Green.

“The last thing you want to do,” adds Gurra, “is spoil the wine.” 

Landscape of water and mountains
The landscape near the secret underwater wine cellar Hurtigruten Norway

When all was said and done and the sparkling wine had been pulled from the depths, it had retained “more freshness than I anticipated,” says Nikolai Haram Svorte, who was named Norway’s best sommelier for 2023, to Food & Wine’s Sam Gutierrez. “From the refreshing citrus tones to a mineral salty finish, like an oyster, it’s clear to me that this hugely intriguing experiment has revealed a unique setting to store and age sparkling wine.”

Crews pulling crate of wine onto ship
Crews retrieved the sparkling wine after it spent six months underwater. Steffen Silseth / Hurtigruten Norway

After a bit of light cleaning, the bottles will now be stashed on various Hurtigruten ships for passengers to drink while sailing up and down the Norwegian coast (and, as is the case on some voyages, all the way up to Svalbard, an archipelago not far from the North Pole).

Travelers can also sip cocktails inspired by the Norwegian landscape, as Brittany Chrusciel reports for Travel Weekly. One such drink is made with vodka that’s been infused with the flavors and aromas of pine needles harvested from the Norwegian island of Traena. Another cocktail, called the Epleslang, is named after a Norwegian word that evokes the “guilty but pleasurable feeling you get as a child when you steal an apple from your neighbor’s tree,” as Hurtigruten bar manager Kim Seach tells the publication.

Wine bottles with sand on them
The bottles were a little dirty, but otherwise, they made it out of the experiment unscathed. Kristian Dale / Hurtigruten Norway

"All of our cocktails are related to a story or place," he adds.

The company, which has been in business since 1893, is also experimenting in other ways: Last month, Hurtigruten Norway unveiled plans for a zero-emissions vessel. If it comes to fruition, the ship could be the first of its kind in the world.

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