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 Published on: Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Hi everyone! It’s good to be back! Here’s an interesting article from The Montreal Gazette:

“World’s oldest champagne’ uncorked”
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
By Aira-Katariina Vehaskari, AFP

Swedish and worldwide champagne expert Richard Julin tastes a 200-year-old champagne, on November 17, 2010 in Mariehamn.

Wine experts Wednesday popped the corks of two bottles of champagne recently salvaged from the bottom of the Baltic Sea, where they had lain in a sunken ship for nearly 200 years. On stage in front of some 100 journalists and wine enthusiasts gathered in the capital of Finland’s island province of Aaland, they eased the fragile corks from the dark brown bottles — one from the house of Veuve-Clicquot and the other from the now extinct house of Juglar.

As the contents were poured into rows of waiting glasses, the aroma was more pungent than any modern wine or champagne: a thick, nose-wrinkling bouquet that could be smelled several metres (yards) away. “Bottles kept at the bottom of the sea are better kept than in the finest wine cellars,” one of the world’s foremost champagne experts, Richard Juhlin, told reporters.

Juhlin described the Juglar as “more intense and powerful, mushroomy,” and the Veuve-Clicquot as more like Chardonnay, with notes of “linden blossoms and lime peels”.

“Madame Clicquot herself must have tasted this same batch,” Francois Hautekeur, a Veuve-Clicquot representative, told AFP, referring to Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin, who reigned over the famous house. The historic estate announced Wednesday it had discovered that three or four bottles of its produce were found among the 168 salvaged bottles. Hautekeur and other employees of the winemaker have been assisting Aaland historians in identifying and dating the champagne, which originates from the second quarter of the 19th century, making it probably the world’s oldest.

“For everyone at Veuve-Clicquot, it’s like winning a championship,” Hautekeur said.

The extravagance was part of a push by the tiny autonomous Aaland province to turn the sudden attention garnered from the sunken treasure into a marketing blitz for tourism. The deputy head of the Aaland government, Britt Lundberg, announced that the the province planned to auction off one bottle of each make. Juhlin told AFP that either bottle could fetch 100,000 euros (135,000 dollars).

Following the auction, Aaland plans to mix the shipwrecked champagne with younger vintages and sell them. The idea doesn’t horrify Juhlin, who says that most of the bottles are not in mint condition, and could be mixed to impart the old flavour to a new blend. However, Riikka Alvik, from Finland’s National Board of Antiquities, told AFP before the event that she had hoped the Aland authorities would have treated every bottle as a museum piece.

“We would never have just auctioned off museum objects like that,” she said. In the crowd Wednesday, the diver who discovered the precious cargo when verifying the existance of a shipwreck, Christian Ekstroem, watched as others
drank what he salvaged. He had already tasted his share straight from the bottle right after bringing it
up to the surface.

“I said, let’s taste some seawater. But it wasn’t seawater after all,” he said. Ekstroem gets no official compensation for the find, but he, like many Aalanders, says he hopes the international attention will put the province on
the tourism radar.

“I was talking to a guy from Veuve-Cliquot who said that’s a very good story,
but . . . where is Aaland?” Ekstroem said, grinning.

© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette

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