In the summer of 2010 five bottles of beer were discovered in a shipwreck in Föglö in Åland’s outer archipelago. The wreck contained 145 bottles of champagne and five bottles of beer from the 1840s.
Owing to the constant temperature between four and six degrees, the dark surroundings, the pressure inside the bottles and the pressure at the bottom of the sea, the champagne was in extremely good condition. Each bottle was uncorked, tasted and classified by international expert Richard Juhlin.
Three champagne houses
Sommelier Ella Grüssner Cromwell-Morgan from Åland sampled the first bottle that was brought up from the wreck. She waxed lyrical in the local press afterwards:
“The aroma of the wine is of mature fruit, with yellow raisin tones and a considerable hint of tobacco. Though it was so incredibly old, there was a freshness about the wine. It wasn’t at all stiff, but rather had a clear acidity backing up its sweetness. Finally, an extremely clear flavour of oak cask storage.”
Out of the bottles that were salvaged, 95 were from the Juglar champagne house, which closed down in 1829. The same owners produce Jacquesson today. Veuve Clicquot was represented by 46 bottles and Heidsieck & Co by four. The Veuve Clicquot bottles were dated 1841–1850.
An auction record
During Mariehamn’s first champagne auction in 2011 the Acker Merrall & Condit auctioneers sold 15 items from the Veuve Clicquot cellars in addition to the two bottles of champagne from the wreck.
The Juglar bottle was sold for 24,000 euros while the Veuve Clicquot champagne, dating back to approximately 1841, went for 30,000 euros, setting a new world record. The earlier record, set in 2008, was USD 84,700 for two bottles of 1959 Dom Perignon Rosé.
The auction in Åland was one of the most historic ever in terms of the wine world, according to John Kapon, CEO of the auctioneers. Fabienne Moreau from the champagne house expressed the view that the bottle might have been sampled by Madame Clicquot herself.
The auction in 2012 was conducted by auctioneers Artcurial; six bottles of Juglar were sold, four of Veuve Clicquot and one of Heidsieck & Co together with some vintage Veuve Clicquot champagne.
In museums and in a cage
The wreck and its cargo belong to Åland’s Provincial Government. Some of the bottles have been preserved in Åland as museum pieces and one in the Veuve Clicquot museum in France. The surplus from the auctions is used for the improvement of water quality in the Baltic Sea and for research in marine archaeology and naval history.
The Hotel Silverskär is running an initiative involving a cage of champagne on the seabed in Saltvik. They plan a future research project together with Veuve Clicquot and the University of Reims in France on the storage of champagne on the seabed and how the drink is affected.