Taste the bubbles of the sea: Havets Bobler

Discover the story behind this sea-aged, sparkling sensation, created exclusively to serve on our ships.

When we heard about the latest innovations in ageing wine, we couldn’t resist exploring an intriguing new underwater process.

Tani Gurra, our Front of House & Beverage Director, says that the idea for creating Havets Bobler, our new underwater-aged sparkling wine, came to him as he was sitting on deck watching the Norwegian coast scroll by.

“We work with the sea. We are part of the sea. It is in our DNA. The thought of ageing a beautiful sparkling wine beneath these waters as we sail above them filled me with emotion. I wanted to make something unique and deeply connected with what we do.”

After all, we already see the Norwegian coast as our kitchen. The fjords are our fish tanks. The orchards, our fruit bowl. The mountains, our herb garden. Why not let the ocean be our wine cellar?

A sublime shipwreck

The process of ageing wine underwater was discovered by accident. In 2010, a trove of 168 bottles of Champagne, including a bottle of Veuve Clicquot, was found in a 170-year-old shipwreck in the Baltic Sea.

A panel of wine experts sampled the Champagne and, after swirling the liquid around their glasses to infuse it with some much-needed oxygen, they agreed that the wine tasted sublime. Somehow, it was still fresh and vibrant.

Since then, winemakers and innovators all over the world have been inspired to experiment with producing new wines aged in seas and lakes. The naturally regulated temperatures, consistent darkness of deep water, and constant vibrating effect of the movement of the sea are the perfect conditions for the maturation process.

Recent experiments in ageing wine in the Baltic, Mediterranean, and Atlantic have all been hailed a success. While chemical analysis of the wines showed very little difference between land- and sea-aged bottles, blind taste tests suggested a distinct development of certain characteristics. Underwater wines may tend towards a greater intensity of colour and smell, with a sense of freshness and silkiness on the palate.

The cooler temperatures of waters such as the Norwegian Sea are even better suited to sparkling wines. The stable underwater environment enhances the structure of the wine, improving effervescence to create smoother, softer bubbles, while moderating acidity and sweetness for more rounded tannins.

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Sun-drenched slopes to shadowy seabed

Havets Bobler, our exclusive sparkling wine, is the fruit of our own adventures into the exciting world of sea-aged wine. To create it, we partnered with Rathfinny, a family-run wine estate that rolls out across the south-facing slopes of Sussex, England. As well as producing award-winning sparkling wines, Rathfinny shares our sustainable approach, even becoming the first sparkling wine grower-producer in the world to achieve certified B Corp status.

Our classic cuvée is made in the traditional method from Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay grapes. The result is a rich palate of citrus and apricots with delicate nuances of cream. Only 1,700 bottles of this limited-edition sparkling wine have been produced.

In late November 2022, we lowered four sealed cases of sparkling wine to 112 ft (34.2 m) below sea level for six months of maturation in the cold northern waters. On the Norwegian seabed here, just shy of 66°N, temperatures average only 5°C (41°F). Each case contained 425 bottles and weighed 90 stone (570 kg or 1,257 lbs), and each bottle wore a bright red wax cap to protect its cork.

During the coldest months of the year, these bottles lay in the currents and darkness of the depths of the ocean at the edge of the Arctic Circle. This top-secret spot, just off the coast of Sandnessjøen, on the Norwegian island of Alsta, became the most northern undersea wine cellar in the world.

From seabed to Champagne glass

In May 2023, we brought the bottles back to the surface, where Nikolai Haram Svorte, winner of Norway’s Best Sommelier 2023, was waiting to be one of the first people to taste the wine.

“This is the start of something truly exciting, and I’m really impressed,” he said. “From the refreshing citrus tones to a mineral salty finish, like an oyster, it’s clear to me that this hugely intriguing experiment has revealed a unique setting to store and age sparkling wine.

“As Hurtigruten look to submerge more bottles, and for much longer periods of time, I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Havets Bobler. I’ll be keeping a close eye on this project and I’m excited to hear what Hurtigruten guests think too!”

Now, these bottles, still impressed with the patina of the ocean and only available on Hurtigruten ships, carry the promise of a very special skål – and of more exciting beverage-based innovations from our new fjord-based wine cellar.

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