Lifestyle / Wines and Spirits

An Italian sparkling wine produced underground: Vintner Mauro Camusso send bottles into a disused mine

One may be tempted to find a cave and live it in till 2016 is done — you know, with all its unwelcome surprises — but sometimes we may need to brave it out above ground so that others can create delicious sparkling wine.

Jan 01, 2017 | By Vimi Haridasan

Mauro Camusso is a man who has brought his expertise in the quarrying business and love of wine together creating a Champagne-style sparkling wine deeps in the bowels of the Val Germansaca mineral mine.

Some 50 km (30 miles) southwest of Turin, the mine once produced talc until 1995 before being closed and converted into a museum. Now, the mine will be used by Camusso, owner of wine estate L’Autin, to hold 3,000 bottles while they go through the secondary fermentation process. The bottles were first sent down in 2015 and will have yeast and sugar to a base still white wine in order to produce a reaction that will create crucial bubbles. The process was pioneered in Champagne and has been used in the world’s most celebrated bubbly.

What makes the disused mine perfect for the process, comes from its constant temperature of 10 degrees celcius (50 degrees Fahrenheit) and a humidity level of 90%. The bottles are stores for 10 months to a year, horizontally and are rotated delicately from time to time to help create the fine fizz. The bottles are then suspended upside down for three weeks to allow the yeast residue to settle in the neck of the bottle.

To work within the mine, Camusso and his workers have to don headlamps like real miners. Andrea Peyrot, one of Camusso’s workers, says the venture has given the former industrial site a new lease of life in the 21st century. “If the mines are not looked after they close themselves naturally,” he told AFP. “So making this wine here is also a way of keeping the mining tradition alive in the region.”

Camusso has been encouraged by early samples. “The quality seems to be good,” he says. But it will be a few years yet before he knows if the unusual cellar conditions “bring a little something extra” to his underground wine.