"The best things happen in the dark." At least they do according to Radgonske Gorice, the Slovenian wine producer who has just launched the world’s first sparkling wine, made, sold and tasted in complete darkness.
The wine is aptly named Untouched by Light. Its producer was tempted over to the dark side by research originally conducted by Professor Emerita Ann C. Noble, who discovered that exposure to UV rays from the sun or artificial lamps can result in 'light-struck' aromas in sparkling wine. In fact, just five minutes' exposure to UV rays from the sun can decrease the intensity of citrus aromas in sparkling wine, while increasing undesirable ones like rotten cabbage, eggs and wet dog.
The whole wine production process is conducted under the cover of darkness. The chardonnay grapes are harvested from the hilly vineyards near the town of Gornja Radgona in the northeast corner of Slovenia, by pickers wearing night-vision goggles on moonless nights. While the goggles take a bit of getting used to, the producers have found that "a sense of touch can compensate what we lack in vision – other senses really do come alive when you are deprived of one of them."
Harvesting in darkness also means the atmospheric temperatures are lower, and so are the temperatures of the grapes. "The grapes 'close up', the aromas are more concentrated and that is what we have hoped for - to preserve more of the aromatic components in the wine," the producer says.
The 100 percent chardonnay wine is then matured hidden in the dark caves of Radgona, using the French bottle fermentation method, for up to three years. In Radgonske Gorice this is popularly known as the "Crafted by Darkness" method.
Once out of the cave, the wine is protected in a 99.8 percent black lightproof bottle, and packed in a vacuum- sealed bag blocking any additional light or air contact.
As for drinking, yes, you guessed it: it's recommended to be served in dark wine glasses, and savoured in the dark.
Although it might come across as gimmicky, the wine is apparently very serious on the palate. “The first 2016 vintage is extremely fresh, fruity and citrusy with the aftertaste of green tea and mint. There is a continuation from the nose to the mouth. Very delicate bubbles give creaminess to the wine. It’s like an echo, balancing between the softness and crispiness which are usually in contradiction, but here they are together,” said Pierre-Yves Bournerias, the sommelier from the Institut Oenologique de Champagne.
If you fancy of night of drinking with the lights off, be quick, there is a limited edition of only 2000 samples of the 2016 Untouched.
All images courtesy of Radgonske Gorice
Step inside the fascinating Untouched by Light story in the video below ...