The winery draws on research that suggests exposure to daylight or artificial lighting creates ‘light-struck aromas’ – decreasing the intensity of citrus aromas; but increasing the intensity of unwanted aromas akin to rubber or cooked cabbage.
The winery, Radgonske Gorice, is currently fermenting the first batch of its wine and is taking pre-orders before its release in 2020.
In the dark: harvest, production and packaging
Situated in Slovenia near the north eastern border with Austria, Radgonske Gorice is already well-known in the country for its sparkling wines, thanks to its 166-year history.
However, for its latest project it has ‘turned to the dark side’ – creating a wine produced entirely in darkness – which is a completely new venture for the winery.
The whole production process for ‘Untouched by Light’ is done in complete darkness. It is made from Chardonnay grapes which have been picked on moonless nights, and then aged in the dark for up to three years in the winery’s cellars.
All harvesting and production processes are done in the dark by workers wearing night vision goggles.
The wine is packaged in a black lightproof bottle as well as a vacuum sealed bag to block out any additional light or air contact. The winery then encourages drinkers to also taste the wine in complete darkness.
The winery was inspired by research published in the American Journal of Enology and Viticulture, which investigated the effect of light on sparking wine. It found a detectable change in aroma came with minimal exposure to fluorescent light in both still and sparkling wine in flint bottles.
The ‘lightstruck’ aroma produce on exposure to light was characterized by a decrease in the citrus aroma, and an increase ‘in intensity of cooked cabbage, corn nuts, wet dog/wet wool and soy-marmite aromas’.
In normal winemaking processes, wine may be exposed to light during production and will be further subject to light for long periods of time when it sits on shelves in wine stores and supermarkets in clear glass bottles.
The winery’s logic, therefore, is that by eliminating light, it can perfect the wine it produces.
“It was proven that a wine’s exposure to light, even for a relatively short period of time, decreases the intensity of citrus aromas and increases the development of its off-flavour,” says the winery.
“The perfected sparkling wine production method we devised is directly inspired by these scientific conclusions.”
'Crafted by Darkness'
Using 100% Chardonnay from its vineyard means the character of the grape will be reflected in Untouched by Light, says the winery – ‘a full, rounded flavour with medium-long aftertaste… the aromatics is distinct but unobtrusive…numerous gentle bubbles give the feeling of silkiness and sophistication’.
“Untouched by Light is made from the selected Chardonnay grapes by using the famous inside-the-bottle French fermentation method,” explained winery managing director Borut Cvetkovič.
“What makes this wine unique is its aging process as Untouched by Light is left to age for two to three years in the caves of Radgona in Slovenia, untouched by the outside world – in complete absence of light. In our jargon it is known as a Crafted by Darkness method.
"We use night vison glasses during harvest, bottle rotation and packaging. Once out of the cave, the wine is protected in a black lightproof bottle packed in a vacuum-sealed bag blocking any additional light or air contact. I would strongly recommend tasting this wine in pitch darkness in good company.”
Radgonske Gorice will have 2,000 bottles of Untouched Light available in 2020, and then the same volume again in 2021. The wine will be available online and the winery also plans to distribute the wine via its existing distribution channels, focusing on the UK and US.