Are You Afraid of (Drinking Wine in) the Dark?

Slovenia’s Radgonske Gorice isn’t satisfied with simply tasting blind …

Are You Afraid of (Drinking Wine in) the Dark?
Slovenia's Radgonske Gorice winery has created Untouched by Light, a sparkling Chardonnay made, aged and bottled … in the dark. (Bruketa&Žinić&Grey)
Feb 9, 2022

We’re big fans of blind tasting around here. Wine tends to prefer to keep things in the dark as well: Prolonged exposure to light, especially direct sunlight, can damage wine—that’s one of the reasons wine bottles are made from colored glass.

In pursuit of a wine that’s never seen the light of day is Slovenian sparkling wine house Radgonske Gorice, whose Untouched by Light sparkling Chardonnay is made, aged and bottled in absolute darkness.

“We wanted to do an experiment, to see if there’s a difference in the taste if we secure the ideal conditions for the wine and exclude all potential influences on its aroma or character,” Radgonske Gorice enologist Klavdija Topolovec told Wine Spectator via email. “[We’re making] a sparkling wine as a reflection of our terroir. We are proud that we have succeeded.”

Radgonske Gorice’s team cites a 1989 study authored by now-retired U.C. Davis Professor of Enology Ann Noble and published in the American Journal of Enology and Viticulture; it concludes that fluorescent light can give wine a “light-struck” aroma, muting citrus notes and enhancing unpleasant accents like cooked cabbage, corn nuts, wet dog/wet wool and soy/marmite aromas.”

But Radgonske Gorice isn’t just fighting fluorescents. “We went a step further and eliminated light from the entire process, from harvest to tasting,” said Topolovec.

To make Untouched by Light, Radgonske Gorice harvests estate grapes on moonless nights before moving the crop to a darkroom-like cellar where the winemaking team has to wear night-vision goggles. Untouched by Light is then bottled in light-resistant black glass and sealed in a light-proof black foil bag. (But that still doesn’t mean you can leave it sitting in the sun—heat kills wine too!)

Topolovec says the first vintage of Untouched by Light, 2016, was largely well-received, and the wine made its U.S. debut with the 2017 vintage ($300, 33 cases imported).

“At first we didn’t know what to expect and were not 100 percent sure if the consumer will recognize the difference between Untouched by Light and our regular sparkling wines,” said Topolovec. “[But] positive feedback both from consumers and professionals confirmed [our hopes].”

The winery hosts comparative “Under the Rock” tastings, giving guests the chance to enjoy Untouched by Light in the natural darkness of a cave cellar. “[They] can even put on eye covers for additional experience,” said Topolovec. “This is meant for them to be able to focus on their sense of taste completely.”

For consumers tasting at home, Radgonske Gorice sells an “experience box”: Along with the wine, each box includes a cooler, four black wineglasses and four blindfolds. Alas, night-vision goggles are not included.


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