Shipwrecked champagne to be auctioned off

The moment of discovery. (Aland government photo)

From Reuters

Two bottles of champagne, thought to be about 200 years old and part of a cache of 150 salvaged from a 19th Century shipwreck in the Baltic Sea, will be auctioned in Finland on June 3.

The cache, which belongs to the government of Aland, an archipelago in the Baltic, includes a bottle from the house of Veuve Clicquot and another from Juglar, which closed its doors in the early 19th Century. ...

When the first bottle was recovered from the sunken two-masted schooner dating from about 1780-1830, Swedish champagne writer Richard Juhlin estimated it would fetch about 500,000 Swedish krona.

"We didn't know if it was going to be anything drinkable," Ella Grussner Cromwell-Morgan, a sommelier who lives on Aland, said in a telephone interview about the first bottle.

Wine experts estimated from the corks and the hand-blown bottles that the wines were produced between 1811 and 1831.

"Most likely they're older than that, because in those days they kept wine stored for 10-12 years in barrels before they shipped it," said Christian Erikson, the diver who discovered the cache.

Erikson, a friend of Cromwell-Morgan, brought the first bottle to her.

"It tasted sweet, but it had that really crisp acidity that made it so balanced," she said about the bottle from Juglar. "And, of course, it had all those secondary flavours -- the leather, the tobacco, the dried fruits -- that are associated with older wines. And there was the definite impression of oak." ...

Wine experts suggest the Baltic's steady 40°F (4°C) temperature, the darkness and lying undisturbed 150 feet (50 meters) under water helped in the wines aging process. ...

The government intends to use the auction's proceeds to fund maritime archaeological work and benefit the Baltic Sea environment.

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