A Croatian winemaking duo have garnered global fame for their signature winemaking technique—aging grape bottles 20 meters below the surface of the Adriatic for 700 days, where in darkness and silence, the liquor absorbs accents of the sea.
Now, they’re inviting customers to experience this undersea wine cellar, diving for their own bottle.
Ivo Šegović, 38, and Edi Bajurin, 52, partnered up in 2009 to form Edivo Vina Underwater Wine to combine their passions for diving and winemaking into a single experience.
“We wanted to make ‘sea wine’ as a gift for our friends and families,” the pair told The Epoch Times. “After some time, we saw that we were on a good path for making a business of it.”
Doing everything themselves—from exploring submerged pressures and temperatures to researching the right location for the liquor—they found an ideal site in the Croatian Bay of Mali Ston, which maintains a constant temperature of 14 to 16 degrees Celsius year-round—the ideal climate for aging red.
After much trial and error, Ivo and Edi chose amphorae (tall clay pots with handles, popularized by the ancient Greeks and Romans) to store their underwater wares. But with water pressure 2 to 3 bars at a depth of 20 meters, bottle caps alone couldn’t withstand the pressure; sea water seeped in, ruining the wine.
Eventually, Ivo and Edi found a solution: employing specially made Portuguese bottle caps coated with three layers of wax, and “one special coating made just for us in Belgium,” which protects both cap and wax from galvanic currents.
Stored in iron cages beneath the sea, each holding up to 30 bottles, affixed to a sunken wooden boat, Ivo and Edi’s wine lays undisturbed for up to 700 days. The pair dive down every 15 days to see what’s happening while nature works its magic.
“The most important thing is that red wine is kept in deep dark,” they explained. “Its first touch with light is when the amphora is opened, and the wine is poured into the glass.
“The second important thing is that bottles are kept in silence,” they added. “And a third really essential thing is that the wine is laid properly, with the bottom of the bottle facing the sea surface; it is essential that the bottle lies on the cork bottle cap.”
After bottles are mature—“Navis Mysterium” takes two years while “Navis Q,” a white wine, ages six months—the divers retrieve the amphorae and start cleaning and desalinating. The containers caked in algae, shells, and coral are hand-scoured and placed in a water bath for 30 days to remove excess organisms.
Navis Mysterium aged both above and below the sea are the same per chemical analysis in alcohol percentage, acidity, and sugar ratio; yet their aroma and tastes are different. Although both derive from the Plavac Mali grape varietal, the dryland drink is “mineral, spicy, and extremely fruity;” its underwater counterpart is “dark, tart, and sweet.”
(Courtesy of EDIVO VINA)
A regular bottle of Navis Mysterium runs 35 euros (approx. US$40); owing to its unique journey, the undersea variety costs 100 euros (approx. US$116), while an amphora will set a buyer back 350 euros (approx. US$406).
Ivo and Edi sell Navis Mysterium at their bar in the hamlet of Drace on the Pelješac peninsula. And the first winery in the world with a license for aging underwater wine Edivo Vina offers visitors themselves tours of the submerged cellar.
“The only thing you need is proof that you’re a certified diver,” they said.
For their unique project, they won two gold medals at the America Wine Awards 2021. Ivo, a dad of three from Janjina, and Edi, a former judo champion from Dubrovnik, are humble but cite a rich winemaking heritage.
“Since our families [have lived] on Pelješac peninsula for generations, we all have vineyards,” they shared. “If you’re not making wine for selling, certainly you’re doing it for your own needs; lunch without a glass of wine is not lunch on Pelješac!”