They say aging is the key to a good wine. Here we’re talking about decades.
Five years ago, divers found dozens of bottles of 170 year-old champagne on a shipwreck, in the northern Baltic sea. After a few trips underneath the water, no less than 169 bottles were brought back to the surface.
Undrinkable you think? Far from it! Despite the depth (164 feet) and the storage conditions (no light and a temperature of 36° F to 39° F), most of the bottles remained perfectly sealed and preserved.
The brand labels had washed off but the names on the corks were still readable: most of the champagne came from Juglar (which merged with Jacquesson & Fils) and Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, while a few bottle were from Heidsieck & Co.
Experts analyzed the sparkling wine to find out more about the 19th century tastes and winemaking process. They recently published their findings and the result is amazing.
Enologists described the “Baltic wine” as “very dark, very golden yellow, amber.” After being exposed to oxygen, the champagne revealed aroma of flowers, leather, oak and tobacco. Surprisingly, the wine was pleasantly sweet and acid in the mouth.
This study revealed the main difference between 19th century champagne and today’s champagne: back then, the sugar level was higher (150 grams per liter versus 8 grams today) and the alcohol level lower (9.5% versus 12.5% today). The alcohol phenomenon can be explained by “a colder climate and less developed farming techniques, leading to less ripe grapes and ultimately lower alcohol”. As for the sugar, it’s only a matter of taste: at that time, people liked sweet champagne so winemakers used to add a lot of sugar at the end of the process.
The high sugar content suggests that the ship was headed to Russia, as Russians were known to prefer their champagne that way.
We sure would have liked to be part of the experts team!