Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

200-year-old bubbly 'wonderful'

A woman smells the aroma of one of the 168 bottles of Champagne salvaged from a 200-year-old shipwreck
A woman smells the aroma of one of the 168 bottles of Champagne salvaged from a 200-year-old shipwreck

Bottles of Champagne recovered after nearly 200 years on the seabed have been declared eminently drinkable by experts.

One who tasted the vintage bubbly billed as the world's oldest drinkable Champagne was lyrical, detecting hints of chanterelles and linden blossom.

The Champagne - of the brands Veuve Clicquot and the now defunct Juglar - was taken 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

"All bottles are not intact but the majority are in good condition," said Britt Lundeberg, Aland's culture minister.

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.

After a presentation of the diving operation, an archaeologist wearing white gloves presented one bottle of Juglar and another of Veuve Clicquot to expert Richard Juhlin, who sampled both. "Great! Wonderful!" he exclaimed. "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."

Veuve Clicquot confirmed that experts analysing the branding of the corks "were able to identify with absolute certainty" that at least three of the recovered bottles were Veuve Clicquot.

The Champagne house, founded in 1772, said the branding featured a comet, added to pay tribute to one that crossed the skies of the Champagne region of France in 1811 "and was rumoured 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 they could fetch more than £50,000 each.

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