The Ideal Wine Company recently discovered that a team of scientists has analysed bottles of Champagne found among the ruins of a 170 year old shipwreck in 2010. What they discovered gave us just a small glimpse into the mysterious world of historic winemaking.
Jackpot discovered in the Baltic Sea
Picture this. You’re a diver who has swum down to the cold dark depths of the Baltic Sea. It’s darker than the dead of night, but you think you see something down below. Then, you stumble on a stash of unbelievably well preserved champagne.
This is exactly what happened in 2010. 168 bottles of Champagne were discovered in a shipwreck from the 1840’s, 50 metres below the Baltic Sea off the coast of the Aland Islands in Finland. 47 of these bottles were Veuve Clicquot, a Champagne named for the famous French Champagne House that has been credited as the first to ever produce rose Champagne.
The secrets of historic winemaking
A portion of the discovery was sold at auction in 2011 for tens of thousands of euros, but the BBC reported that some of them have now been investigated by scientists. A study led by Prof Philippe Jeandet, from the University of Reims in Champagne-Ardenne, France, sought to discover the secrets of historic winemaking by analysing three of the Veuve Clicquot found in the shipwreck against bottles recently produced by the luxury Champagne house.
The study’s findings were published in the PNAS Journal. They show that the Champagne’s composition was surprisingly similar to that of its modern cousins, but it had “astronomically high” sugar levels of 14%. This is higher than most modern dessert wines. It also contained traces of arsenic, which you certainly wouldn’t see in wine today as it’s a highly dangerous substance.
“It was fabulous.”
Professor Jeadet noted to the BBC that he only got to taste a mere 0.1ml of the find, but what he did taste provided him with a once-in-lifetime experience.
The academic commented that "it was impossible to smell," "but it was fabulous - just tasting 100 microlitres." He went on to suggest that the Veuve Clicquot boasted flavours of leather and tobacco and that "the taste remained for two or three hours." He was especially surprised by how well the wine had been preserved during it’s tenure at the bottom of the Baltic.
A window into the past
This is amazing. How often do we get to look at a historic rare Champagne and use it to open up a window into the past? This find has shown us how our ancestors developed the winemaking techniques that were the forebears of the ones we use today. It’s like we’ve found a missing piece in the puzzle of how modern Champagne came to be!