The U.S. Government Isn’t a Fan of Underwater-Aged Wine

charleston harbor

In February 2013, California winemaker Jim Dyke and his people at Mira Winery, Napa Valley, started dropping cases of their Cabernet Sauvignon 60 feet deep into South Carolina’s Charleston Harbor. Dyke had heard of shipwrecked wines being found and sold for thousands of dollars, so he decided to try his own experiment of sorts. According to Politico, it turns out the federal government doesn’t take kindly to such experiments.

When Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) got wind of Dyke’s experiment and came out with an announcement that strongly advised against aging wine in seawater.

“The FDA has advised us that aging wine in a way that bottle seals have contact with sea or ocean waters may render these wines adulterated under the FD&C Act in that they have been held under unsanitary conditions,” reads the document, “whereby they may have become contaminated with filth or may have been rendered injurious to health (21 U.S.C. § 342(a)(4)).”

The announcement also hints at restricting the sale of wine that has been submerged in seawater, but offers no concrete facts beyond that the practice breaks FDA rules that have to do with contamination.

Therein lies the problem: alcohol regulation in the U.S. is a mess. Alcohol is tested by the FDA, but regulated by the TTB, not to mention the fact that wine aging itself has never been regulated by the government. However, potential contamination of wine is regulated, and will have the federal government at a winery’s door in a hot second.

In the case of Dyke’s seawater-aged cabernet sauvignon, there still hasn’t been any definitive decision made by the government, only strong warnings to back down. Dyke and the team at Mira Winery also seem to have backed down on making any big moves towards producing more underwater-aged wines. [Politico][Photo: Flickr/SC Maritime]