Rare Foods Australia opens ocean cellar door on premium Margaret River wines
Food & Agriculture
Food & Agriculture
Special Report: Rare Foods Australia has uncorked cellar door sales of its unique limited vintage Ocean Signature wine, while preparing for online sales and an innovative new trial with a leading French ocean winemaker in early 2024.
After successful trials over three years, Rare Foods Australia (ASX:RFA) is offering premium Margaret River wine, aged in the Southern Ocean off Western Australia’s pristine South-West corner, to the public for the first time.
The bottles of sparkling wine, chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon have been “harvested” after spending a year on the seabed of Flinders Bay. There, they have been aged by the gentle currents of the bay, along with constant levels of low light and temperature and consistent pressure.
The hand-packaged bottles also come with an “ocean signature” – the remnants of natural coral and barnacle growth – that hint at its sunken treasure back story.
Ocean cellaring stems from the chance discovery of 170-year-old Veuve Clicquot bottles in a schooner at the bottom of the Baltic Sea. Despite being submerged for almost two centuries, the Veuve had retained its sparkle – and a great taste.
The 2010 discovery prompted European wineries to successfully develop ocean oenology, or wine making, and ocean cellaring.
Adding a modern Australian flavour to the technique, the boutique Ocean Signature range is a blend of wine from some of WA’s best vineyards, enhanced by being carefully placed in RFA’s ocean lease by its team of world-class professional divers.
Ocean Signature is currently available at RFA’s Ocean Pantry in Augusta and the company is looking to launch online sales early in the new year.
The harvest of the Ocean Signature vintage has been overseen by highly experienced winemaker and innovator, RFA’s sales and marketing manager – ocean cellared products, Simon Hanley.
Hanley’s next major project is RFA’s ocean winemaking trial with leading French company Winereef International.
The two companies signed a heads of agreement in October, which follows and builds upon the success of the Ocean Signature release.
The trial will involve premium Margaret River wine undergoing a secondary fermentation process in the ocean using a patented technique that has so far been used only by Winereef.
Based on the Basque coast, Winereef has honed its proprietary technology over 15 years and now uses it to produce up to 200,000 bottles of wine a year.
Instead of the wine being aged in the traditional way – within barrels housed in a cellar – the wine will be carefully deployed in purpose-built underwater vats of about 300 litres by RFA divers.
The vats will be tethered to the ocean floor but allowed to be gently swayed by the rhythm of the ocean, which keeps the yeast in constant suspension. On land, by contrast, the yeast must be stirred manually, then it settles again.
Maintained in suspension and under pressure, the yeast breaks down differently to how it does on land.
The constant motion and the pressure of the water at a depth of 15-20m impart technical transformations to the wine that cannot be replicated on land. Then, there’s the benefits of the consistently low temperature – leveraging the ambient temperature of the Southern Ocean – there is no need for costly refrigeration and the associated carbon emissions that are a constant factor in traditional winemaking methods.
After undergoing this secondary fermentation process, the wine is transferred to a winery on land to be filtered and bottled.
While the French have done a lot of research on how ocean winemaking results in a unique flavour profile, Hanley is engaging with the local peak body, the Australian Wine Research Institute, to learn more about the process in domestic waters.
The trial is expected to yield up to 13,000 bottles by July 2024. RFA and Winereef have agreed to then jointly commercialise an ocean cellaring business in Australia, depending on the trial’s success and approval to add to RFA’s Management and Environmental Monitoring Plan.
RFA combines sustainability with record sales and revenue by operating the world’s only Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified abalone ranch.
From its 413ha ocean lease, one of only two in WA, it supplies about 20% of global premium greenlip abalone, as well as roei and brownlip abalone, to export markets.
Adding Margaret River wine to its range of products is part of RFA’s strategy to scale and grow by supplying and marketing premium products from the pristine South-West of WA.
This article was developed in collaboration with Rare Foods Australia, a Stockhead advertiser at the time of publishing.
This article does not constitute financial product advice. You should consider obtaining independent advice before making any financial decisions.