Sandy grave helps wine keeps its freshness

Two barrels half-buried in sand, lying on wooden slats
Barrels of Tursan wine from Les Landes is buried in two metres of sand on the coast near Messanges so that it matures slowly

Vignerons bury barrels under sand in a return to tradition when they sold thousands of bottles to England

A dozen barrels of wine have been buried deep in sands beside the Atlantic on the Landes coast as winemakers return to a traditional method of maturation that helps keep the wine fresh and fruity.

The wines, from Tursan in Landes, will be stored in the natural underground cellar at a constant 15C and lifted and bottled after six months.

The naturally cool, damp conditions will allow the wine to mature slowly and Cave Coopérative de Tursan president Francis Descazeaux told France 3 that they knew from previous experience and tests that this allowed it to keep freshness and fruit flavours.

Régis Laporte of the cooperative said this was the old tradition when the Tursan wines were sold in northern Europe in the 1800s. Transported to the coast by gabarre from Saint-Sever to Vieux-Boucau, they were stored under the dunes until they could be loaded into boats bound for England and the Netherlands, where the wine was popular.

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Ten barrels of red and two of white have been buried a little further up the coast from Vieux-Boucau  at Messanges and they will be bottled to give 3,500 bottles of ‘Experience’ wine and sold for end-of-year celebrations.

The ‘cellar’, an access area to the ocean at Messanges, was chosen after working with the Office National des Forêts to find a location that would cause least disturbance and where the barrels could lie undisturbed.

It is a publicity coup for Tursan wines, with the area’s vineyards producing 15,000 hectolitres a year on lands near Dax and Mont-de-Marsan. Previously the vignerons had stored wine under sand at Biscarosse until about 2009, but the practice fell out of use.

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