In a recent article for The Wine Spectator, Collin Dreizen writes that: “We’re big fans of blind tasting around here. Wine tends to prefer to keep things in the dark as well: Prolonged exposure to light, especially direct sunlight, can damage wine—that’s one of the reasons wine bottles are made from colored glass.
In pursuit of a wine that’s never seen the light of day is Slovenian sparkling wine house Radgonske Gorice, whose “Untouched by Light” sparkling Chardonnay is made, aged, and bottled in absolute darkness.”
“We wanted to do an experiment, to see if there’s a difference in the taste if we secure the ideal conditions for the wine and exclude all potential influences on its aroma or character,” Gorice’s enologist Klavdija Topolovec told Wine Spectator that. “We are making a sparkling wine as a reflection of our terroir. We are proud that we have succeeded.”
Gorice’s team cites a 1989 study authored by now-retired U.C. Davis Professor of Enology Ann Noble and published in the American Journal of Enology and Viticulture; it concludes that fluorescent light can give wine a “light-struck” aroma, muting citrus notes and enhancing unpleasant accents like cooked cabbage, corn nuts, wet dog, and marmite aromas.”
But Gorice isn’t just fighting fluorescents. “We went a step further and eliminated light from the entire process, from harvest to tasting,” said Topolovec.
To make “Untouched by Light”, Gorice harvests estate grapes on moonless nights before moving the crop to a darkroom-like cellar where the winemaking team must wear night-vision goggles. “Untouched by Light” is then bottled in light-resistant black glass and sealed in a light-proof black foil bag. (But that still doesn’t mean you can leave it sitting in the sun—heat kills wine too!)
Topolovec says the first vintage of Untouched by Light, 2016, was largely well-received, and the wine made its U.S. debut with the 2017 vintage.
“At first we didn’t know what to expect and were not 100 percent sure if the consumer will recognize the difference between “Untouched by Light” and our regular sparkling wines,” said Topolovec. “But positive feedback both from consumers and professionals confirmed our hopes.”
The winery hosts comparative “Under the Rock” tastings, giving guests the chance to enjoy “Untouched by Light” in the natural darkness of a cave cellar. “They can even put on eye covers” said Topolovec. “This is meant for them to be able to focus on their sense of taste completely.”
For consumers tasting at home, Gorice sells an “experience box”: Along with the wine, each box includes a cooler, four black wineglasses and four blindfolds. Alas, night-vision goggles are not included.
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