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Jonathan_hodgkins's avatar

How would I maintain the integrity of a bottle of wine buried in the ground for four years?

Asked by Jonathan_hodgkins (673points) March 5th, 2012

For leap year, I convinced a handful of people to write letters to themselves for the next leap year. The idea is to bury the letters in the ground and dig them up in four years (I live in the New England). There was this great idea to do the same with a bottle of wine. Bury it and then dig it up four years from now. However, I’m not sure the best way to do this and still maintain the drinkability of the wine in four years. Does it need be kept in an airtight container? How far down does it have to be buried in order to maintain a consistent temperature that won’t freeze.

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10 Answers

marinelife's avatar

Just put it inside a box and make sure that it is a wine that will improve in four years.

HungryGuy's avatar

I’m no expert on wine, but I believe wine turns to vinegar if left in storage too long. That has happened to wine I’ve left un-drank for a few years. I don’t think what you’re planning is good idea. Put the message in the bottle, and enjoy the wine now.

JLeslie's avatar

Not an expert either, but the thing you need to know is the temperature of the ground. In FL you are going to have a tough time keeping the wine good, but more north, say north of Georgia-ish going across the US, if you bury it 2 feet deep I think you will be alright. Probably the temp of your cold faucet water will help you decide, in FL the groundwater is never cold.

gorillapaws's avatar

The thing I would worry about is sediment. You’re supposed to turn wine bottles every-so-often during the aging process. I would do more research before committing a nice bottle of wine to being buried alive.

zenvelo's avatar

If you are in New England, ask a local nursery how deep the ground freeze generally goes in the winter, then bury it a foot below that, inside another container for safety’s sake.

And choose something that will age well, like a strong California Cabernet from 2008 or 2009.

downtide's avatar

If it’s red wine it should be okay after 4 years. White will probably not last that long before turning to vinegar. Make sure it’s in a watertight container to protect the cork from dampness. If, when you dig it up, the cork is in any way damp or mouldy, the wine will be spoiled.

gorillapaws's avatar

Ok, so I was wrong about periodically turning the wine. Apparently, the sediments may settle on the side of the bottle, but it won’t negatively impact the wine. The “turning is so the bottle can be at a slight angle, but allows for some wine to always contact the cork so it doesn’t dry out. This strategy keeps the sediments at the bottom of the bottle, and keeps the cork from drying out, but isn’t necessary. The article I read stated that storing it horizontally is a good strategy.

augustlan's avatar

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RocketGuy's avatar

Make sure the bottle is lying down, so that the wine inside touches the cork. Upright would allow the cork to dry out => bad.

zigmund's avatar

I am an expert and I think this is a really bad idea. I mean the idea is alright, but you might find you have some problems in execution.

@downtide: Four years will not turn whites into vinegar if stored properly. Many white wine varieties have excellent long term ageing potential. There are Rieslings and Sauternes that really come into their own at 50–70 years. Most “drink while young” white wines turn to vinegar due to the introduction of acetobacter, which converts the ethanol to acetic acid. So assuming the winemaker has taken the necessary precautions to avoid acetobacter contamination, white wines can age. Whether or not they improve is another matter…but I digress.

Ok. Let’s say that I was just absolutely set on doing this and I wanted it to be successful.
I would definitely consult with experts in my area to find out how deep I would need to go to maintain a constant temperature of 55–65 degrees Farenheit. Temperatures above 78 degrees Farenheit for even one or two days can “cook” the wine, spoiling its intended flavours. Humidity is also a factor. The wine needs to stay humid enough to not dry out the cork, but not so humid as to allow the growth of mildew. (Some molds can actually be beneficial, but once again, I digress…)
Next, I’d want to be sure I had chosen a wine that did have the potential to get better over the next four years. There are lots of wines that fit this category, so it’s really about preference.
The hand of the winemaker in the post fermentation/ bottling stage is another consideration. The last half of the 20th century saw vast improvements in cleanliness and hygeneic production of wines. Stainless steel fermentation vessels, sterile bottling procedures and copious use of sulfur dioxide led to wines that are considerably more shelf stable than wines from even 40 years ago. Wines became subjected to better forms of filtration to remove not only errant particles, but also bacteria and micro organisms which could produce “off flavours” such as brettanomyses, acetobacter which could start a vinegar conversion, or even wild yeasts which could start a secondary fermentation in the bottle (which is how one Dom discovered sparkling wines. But I digress…) So I would choose a wine that was fined and filtered as well as one that was not free of added sulfur dioxide, two things that are very “off trend” for today’s natural and organic driven wine market.
Lastly I would store the bottle on its side in some other form of airtight container.
I might choose a wine with a screwcap closure to avoid any cork spoilage. Yes, there are wines meant for ageing that are bottled in screwcap.
But really, all of this is what wine cellars were designed to do. You wouldn’t chop down a tree with a fork, when a saw is available, would you?

I get the idea of the romance of burying the bottle and then digging it up and sharing it. How about a nice bottle of Maker’s Mark Bourbon. Impervious to heat and cold (well, those extremes anyway) and comes provided with a nice wax seal. Dig a shallow hole. Throw it in. See ya in 2016!

Good luck!

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