Wine stored at the bottom of the sea generates controversy in California

Vinho armazenado no fundo do mar gera polémica na Califórnia

This is an article about a shipwreck, an ocean, century-old champagne bottles, a registered US patent, Tommy Lee of the band Mötley Crüe, and the history of wine in California.

It starts with a diver, a surfer, a winemaker, and a Frenchman who sank special cages with wine off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, in an attempt to create the world's first members-only underwater winery and club. Only they did this without a state permit, near a site of massive offshore oil runoff five decades ago. That led to outrage from the California Coastal Commission, which accused the venture of deliberately violating the law and ordered the cages to be removed.

According to the portal "Must", citing Blomberg, after buying time to comply with the orders, during the pandemic, the entrepreneurs organized an opulent party when they removed the bottles from the bottom of the sea, which was recorded for social media.

"I think it takes a certain arrogance just to do what you want, with what you want, where you want," said Jennifer Savage, policy manager at the Surfrider Foundation in California. "There are reasons why people can't just throw everything they want at the bottom of the ocean."

The commission is expected to evaluate next month an application to approve the cages and allow more structures to be sunk. A team from the commission recommended that the request be deniedsaying that it does not meet the main criteria for use to be approved under the Coastal Acta landmark state law passed in 1976 to protect coastal resources, promote public access, and balance conservation with development.

Ocean Fathoms cofounder Emanuele Azzaretto - the diver - said his plan promotes wine, the blue economy, does not harm the environment, and matures wine faster than normal storage.

"Santa Barbara is ocean and wine," said Azzaretto, who spent years in East Africa developing marine and game parks. "Well, we've just married the two and we're doing it in a very transparent way."

Centennial Champagne

In 2010, explorers found a boat that sank in the Baltic Sea. The divers managed to salvage 168 bottles of champagne dating from 1840-1841. O sparkling wine It tasted good, starting a prospect of an industry.

Spain and Italy now have underwater storage facilities. An underwater winery in Croatia boasts wine stored in clay jugs, although attempts to replicate such efforts in the Chesapeake Bay and off the coast of North Carolina have been unsuccessful. O Underwater Wine Congress was organized in 2019, and another congress is scheduled in Bilbao, Spain, in 2022. The congress did not respond to requests for comment.

In 2015, Azzaretto said, he created a special cage with recycled metals that works like a battery, charging the structure by using waves to stir the wine while the bottles are kept in the dark in cool conditions needed for storage and preservation. Azzaretto began experimenting in 2016, first with 12 bottles, then with 50. One cage was released in 2019 and two in 2020, according to the state of California. He approved the patent in 2020.

For Azzaretto, his project is like fishing for crabs - "You lower a cage, then pull it back up," he says. "I have young wine. I turn it into older wine."

Attempts to obtain permits for the project were lost in a maze of jurisdictions and delays due to covid-19, Azzaretto said. "I didn't know I was doing something wrong. I went to all the port offices. I told everyone what I was doing."

Ocean Fathoms says in its site that the development is a "permitted winery," but according to the commission, that is not true. Last week, Azzaretto said that the language on the site is a bit ambiguous. "I think we should correct that," he said.

The Ocean Fathoms applied for permits only after releasing the cages into the sea, and the commission learned about the boxes through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said Kate Huckelbridge, deputy director of the coastal commission.

"Wine storage does not fit into any of those seven defined uses" in the Coastal Act, Huckelbridge said. "It takes up habitat and space when there are creatures there," he said. "It destroys everything underneath."

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