Shipwrecked Champagne in historic tasting

30th May, 2012 by db_staff

A bottle of Veuve Clicquot thought to date from 1839, found on a shipwreck at the bottom of the Baltic in 2010 has been part of a tasting of old vintages at Veuve Clicquot’s Hôtel du Marc headquarters in Reims, writes Giles Fallowfield.

Jacques Peters (Dominique Demarville’s predecessor) holding the Baltic bottle

At the tasting there were eight wines to try starting with the yet unreleased 2008 Yellow Label white and rosé bases, continuing with La Grande Dame Rosé 1988 (magnum); La Grande Dame 1962; Yellow Label 1953 in magnum; Vintage Rosé 1947; Vintage 1904 and finally the wine from the Baltic, Clicquot’s archivists believe dates from 1839.

This bottle of Veuve Clicquot Champagne had been lying at the bottom of the Baltic Sea in a ship that sunk near the Åland Islands in the first half of the 19th century and came from a batch of 145 successfully salvaged Champagne bottles, all of which were tasted by expert tasters including wine writer Richard Juhlin, with some 79 being assessed as “drinkable” and re-corked.

Out of the 145 bottles of Champagne bought up from the seabed, four are from Heidsieck & Co, 46 are from Veuve Clicquot while the remaining 95 are bottles of Champagne Juglar, a house the name of which disappeared from labels in 1829 when it merged with Champagne Jacquesson.

A total of 162 bottles were salvaged in July 2010 of which one was opened and tasted by the divers who found the wreck, four are beer bottles, two were impossible to identify, two were broken, three bottles leaked and five further bottles were left in Åland’s museum.

The remaining 145, the oldest intact Champagne bottles ever found under the sea still with their corks in place, were identified and dated thanks to the marks on their corks found during reconditioning.

The Åland government plans to auction 11 of the “drinkable” bottles of Champagne – one from Heidsieck & Co, four from Veuve Clicquot and six from Juglar – on 8 June 2012 hoping to beat the record set by one of the two bottles they auctioned last year for €30,000. Funds raised by the sale, which will also include 17 prestigious lots donated by Veuve Clicquot – magnums of 1989 Cave Privée Rosé, 1980 Cave Privée and 1990 Cave Privée being the pick of these – will be used for a charitable marine preservation fund set up by the Aland Government.

Speaking at the Clicquot tasting last Friday, Juhlin said the Clicquot wines were generally in better condition than the others, partly because their corks appeared to be higher quality. He has written a tasting note for the 11 different Champagnes being auctioned on 8th June giving the wines marks out of 100 with each scoring between 93, the highest mark for one of the four Clicquot bottles, and 80 the lowest for the single bottle of Heidsieck & Co.

Each of the 11 wines featuring in the auction still had some fizziness left and Juhlin notes each “popped” when they were originally opened and re-corked back in November 2010.

At the tasting last Friday the bottle of Veuve Clicquot “1939′ again made a gentle popping noise when opened by Clicquot’s Chef de Cave Dominique Demarville, revealing it still had a certain amount of fizz left in the bottle. Anyone expecting it to rival the previous delights of the Clicquot wines from 1988 to 1904 would however probably have been disappointed.

Woody and recognisably sweet but not overly so – during this period in the early nineteenth century Champagne had very high dosage levels varying between around 50 to close on 300g/l, the lower end being five times the average for brut styles of Champagne sold today – the wine had an almost overpoweringly pungent agricultural aroma, a little like an over-ripe soft cheese and this fetid smell dominated the taste too.

But then few people who like modern Champagne would have enjoyed the heavily doctored, sweetened wines produced in Champagne in the early nineteenth century in perfect condition. Tastes have changed.

For more on the tasting visit champagneguru.co.uk

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please note that comments are subject to our posting guidelines in accordance with the Defamation Act 2013. Posts containing swear words, discrimination, offensive language and libellous or defamatory comments will not be approved.

Subscribe to our newsletters

Job vacancies

Sales Account Manager

Jascots Wine Merchants
London, UK

Marylebone Sales Manager

Philglas & Swiggot
Marylebone, London, UK

Area Sales Manager

Bon Coeur Fine Wines
North England, UK

Procurement Assistant – Wine

Adnams PLC
Southwold, UK

Account Manager Central London

Speciality Drinks Ltd
London, UK

Brand Ambassador

Speciality Drinks Ltd
London, UK

National Business Development Manager

Speciality Drinks Ltd
London, UK

Marketing Assistant

Hatch Mansfield
Ascot, Berkshire, UK

Marketing Manager

Bancroft Wines
London, UK

Regional Sales Manager – Scotland

Bancroft Wines
London, UK

Sales Manager – London On-Trade

Bancroft Wines
London, UK

Customer Service & Sales Support Executive

Jascots Wine Merchants
London, UK

Market Insight Analyst

Conviviality PLC
London, UK

Technical Manager

Enotria&Coe
Park Royal, London, GB

The Global Sparkling Masters 2017

Deadline : 25th August 2017

The Global Malbec Masters 2017

Deadline : 25th August 2017

Global Chardonnay Masters 2017

Deadline : 1st September 2017

The Global Sauvignon Blanc Masters 2017

Deadline : 1st September 2017

Click to view more

The Global Rosé Masters 2017

With wines from the palest of pink to almost ruby red, bone dry to almost cloyingly sweet, reductively handled to barrel-aged, as well as gently spritzy to fully sparkling.

The Global Organic Masters 2017

The drinks business is thrilled to announce the launch of The Global Organic Masters

The Drinks Business Awards 2017

Now in its 15th year, the db awards have become the most authoritative, internationally respected badge of achievement in the alcoholic drinks industry.

The Asian Cabernet Sauvignon Masters 2017

the drinks business Hong Kong announces its first year of The Asian Cabernet Sauvignon Masters.

Click to view more