Champagne lost in a shipwreck in the Baltic Sea two centuries ago — recently recovered and uncorked in Finland — was described by an expert who tasted the vintage bubbly as “lyrical, detecting hints of chanterelles and linden blossom.”
Clearly, Cold Duck this was not.
Billed as the world’s oldest champagne, the bubbly — of the brands Veuve Clicquot and the now defunct Juglar — was recovered from a shipwreck discovered in July near the Aland Islands, between Sweden and Finland. A total of 168 bottles were raised in the salvage operation, according to The Associated Press.
“All bottles are not intact but the majority are in good condition,” said Britt Lundeberg, cultural minister of the Aland’s Islands, a semiautonomous Finnish archipelago.
The divers originally said the bottles were believed to be from the 1780s but experts later dated the champagne to the early 19th century. The exact years have not been established, The Associated Press reported.
French champagne house Perrier-Jouet, a subsidiary of Pernod Ricard, has earlier stated that their vintage from 1825 is the oldest recorded champagne still in existence.
Expert Richard Juhlin was ebullient after sampling both brands.
“Great! Wonderful!” he exclaimed. Then he paused. “I think what strikes you the most is that it’s such an intense aroma. It’s so different from anything you’ve tasted before.”
As the contents were poured into rows of waiting glasses, the aroma was more pungent than any modern wine or champagne: a thick, nose-wrinkling bouquet that could be smelled several meters away, according to Agence France-Presse.
“Bottles kept at the bottom of the sea are better kept than in the finest wine cellars,” one of the world’s foremost champagne experts, Richard Juhlin, told reporters.
Juhlin described the Juglar as “more intense and powerful, mushroomy,” and the Veuve-Clicquot as more like Chardonnay, with notes of “linden blossoms and lime peels,” Agence France-Presse added.
Officials with Veuve Clicquot, which was founded in 1772, said the branding featured a comet, added to pay tribute to one that crossed the skies of Champagne in 1811 “and was rumored to be the cause of a harvest of remarkable quality.”
Francois Hautekeur, of Veuve Clicquot’s winemaking team, described the champagne as “a toasted, zesty nose with hints of coffee, and a very agreeable taste with accents of flowers and lime-tree.”
Some of the bottles will be sold at an auction, where Juhlin said they could fetch more than $70,000 apiece.
(Above: Champagne expert Richard Juhlin samples champagne from a bottle salvaged from a 200-year-old Baltic Sea shipwreck.)