WW1 wine to be salvaged from UK shipwreck

An expedition is underway to salvage 50 bottles of wine and/or spirits from a British ship torpedoed off the coast of Cornwall in 1918.

Organised by Cookson Adventures with the aid of various maritime and archaeological entities, the expedition will survey the wreck further and then attempt to salvage around 50 bottles potentially worth several million pounds.

The ship in question was a British cargo ship sailing from Bordeaux to the UK with a cargo of wine when it was torpedoed by a German U-boat in 1918.

Today she lies in 100 metres of water off the Cornish coast and an initial dive by maritime exploration company 10994 Ltd to locate the wreck also revealed her cargo of “several hundred” bottles of wine and possibly Champagne and spirits, the majority of which seem to be intact.

Phase Two of the project will see several days of further mapping and surveying before the salvage work begins.

Several of the bottles will be ‘accessed’ with Coravin upon recovery to determine their potability and then it seems likely several will be sent to the University of Dijon for further testing and the National Maritime Museum of Cornwall in Falmouth has apparently expressed an interest in housing some in its collection.

Régis D. Gougeon Professor of Chemistry & Enology and Adjunct Director of the Institute de la Vigne et du Vin (IUVV) Jules Guyot at the University of Burgundy in Dijon, said: “This is an extremely exciting project, which definitely falls within our expertise and interest for the chemical messages brought by very old samples of wines, spirits and other beverages, as shown for instance in our recent joint research on Baltic Champagnes with Prof. Philippe Schmitt-Kopplin from Technical University of Munich, and Prof. Philippe Jeandet from University of Reims.

“There is no doubt that the samples extracted from the site will have great historical significance as we are not aware of such a wide and aged variety of wine, champagne and brandy being found before in UK waters. This will be hugely important for our ongoing research and for world history as we know it.”

Cookson Adventures is also offering one of its clients the chance to be there alongside a documentary team and various other experts from the worlds of wine and archaeology.

Adam Sebba, CEO of Cookson Adventures, said: “We don’t consider ourselves a luxury travel company or an adventure travel company – we like to do things differently. That’s why this is precisely the type of unique experience we like to build for our clients. It’s a one-of-a-kind opportunity to be a part of one of the most significant historical discoveries of the century.

“The rarity of such a cargo is unprecedented and we’re waiting with baited breath to dive and see if we can recover the wine. The dive will be challenging but, by working with a team of leading experts in a number of specialist fields, we are confident that we can extract the prized artefacts intact.”

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