Divers find old champagne and immediately chug it

Christian Ekstrom
Nordic divers have found a cache of old champagne bottles on a shipwreck in the Baltic Sea. Christian Ekstrom (pictured above via BBC) and his dive partners could not contain their enthusiasm at finding the intact bottles that may date from the late 18th century. So they brought one to the surface, uncorked it, and had a swig. Which statement below captures their reaction?

A) “Damn, it’s only nonvintage yellow label, which hardly keeps from one Christmas to the next. Oh, and the bloody thing is corked!”

B) “It was fantastic… it had a very sweet taste, you could taste oak and it had a very strong tobacco smell. And there were very small bubbles.”

Well, if you guessed (B) then you are right! I personally hate it when the oak doesn’t integrate after 220 years though.

In shades of Rodenstockian abundance, a Reuters story says that the diver does not yet know the number of bottles in the cache. The same story quotes Champagne expert Richard Juhlin saying that he thinks it is late-18th century, from the Clicquot house, and valued at about $68,000 a bottle.

Related: “Cristal at 20,000 leagues under the sea

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11 Responses to “Divers find old champagne and immediately chug it”


  1. Finnish diver Tyler. Never mind, northern countries are same same but different.


  2. Hi Vinipiru –

    Did not mean to offend! In fact, the Reuters story did not reveal Ekstrom’s nationality but referred to “…Ekstrom and his Swedish diving colleagues…”


  3. Not taken, Tyler! You were not far off: the sub-regions people speak Swedish and quite many wish they’d actually be Swedes. Petty local politics I suppose:D

    But most interesting ‘loot’. Sweet champagne from the times of the enlightened despots fetched from the bottom of the sea… Sounds like a Dan Brown novel or something alike.


  4. Ha, yes, it does sound full of intrigue!

    Btw, in that video clip, did the diver say that because the champagne was free, it was a hell of a lot cheaper than anything at the wine monopoly?

    For those who would like a map of the dive site and the Aland Islands, click here.


  5. This story reminds me of an interview I did with the head of a wine distributor in Hong Kong. He talked about a meal he organized for Nicolas Jaboulet: “We finished the dinner with a bottle of 1907 Champagne Heidsieck Monopole Gout Americane. This was a bottle salvaged from a shipwreck in the Baltic Sea, from a shipment of Champagne for the Russian Tsar. The wreck was discovered in the early 1980s and the salvagers found a few thousand bottles of Champagne. The 1907 was amazing, soft yellow in colour, with tiny bubbles, still lots of fruit, a mature nose like that of a top white burgundy, and a long aftertaste. Apparently, this was the Champagne served on the Titanic.”

    Not sure from where the bottle was procured. If anyone wants the full interview, it’s here:

    http://www.grapewallofchina.com/2009/01/23/wine-word-ii-patricio-de-la-fuente-saez-on-1831-yquem-shipwreck-champagne-and-more/

    Cheers, Jim


  6. The bottle in the photo doesn’t really look like it was made in the 1700s. There is an evident indication of bottle and cork refinement that I wouldn’t think was possible that early on – my field of study didn’t leave me time to take the 17th-18th century glass independent study seminars, but Wikipedia came to the fore.
    “…the early Champenois were horrified to see [bubbles], considering it a fault. As late as the 17th century, Champenois wine makers, most notably the Benedictine monk Dom Pérignon (1638–1715), were still trying to rid their wines of the bubbles.”[…]
    “…in 1715, [the year Perignon died] Philippe II, Duke of Orléans became the Regent of France. The Duke enjoyed the sparkling version of Champagne and featured it at his nightly petits soupers at the Palais-Royal. This sparked a craze in Paris as restaurants and fashionable society sought to emulate the Duke’s tastes for the bubbling wine. Champenois winemakers began to switch their business from making still wines to sparkling in order to capitalize on this craze.”
    “…[at] the end of the 18th century non-sparkling pinkish wine production still accounted for over 90% of the Champagne region’s production. The French Revolution [ending in 1799] and following Napoleonic wars [ending in 1815] temporarily derailed the popularity surge for Champagne.
    “As many nobles fled to other countries, the merchants did their best to make sure cases of their favorite Champagne followed. Europeans ports were subject to an endless stream of blockading and counter-blockading.
    “In the 19th century the [new winemaking] obstacles [control of the 2nd fermenting process and how to make wine bottles strong enough] were overcome, and the modern Champagne wine industry took form. Advances by the house of Veuve Clicquot in the development of the méthode champenoise made production of sparkling wine on a large scale profitable, and this period saw the founding of many of today’s famous Champagne houses, including Krug (1843), Pommery (1858) and Bollinger (1829).”
    So, I think the wine is more likely to be early 19th century, and ended up in the drink (so to speak) as a result of a Napoleonic war port blockade and ship sinking.


  7. PS

    Luckily the divers found the wine and drank it before its time. Hat tip to Paul Masson.


  8. This whole thing kinda smells. Decided to write about how right from the get go I was cynical.

    Pretty much thanks to one man, Hardy Rodenstock. He has ruined all things good with rare wine finds!

    http://content.corkd.com/2010/07/21/220-year-old-champagne-discovered-of-the-coast-of-sweden/


  9. […] Year-Old [and still drinkable!] Champagne found at the bottom of the Baltic Sea [read Dr. Vino's take].  It’s thought to be Veuve Cliquot from the […]


  10. […] talked about children and wine education before. And recently about divers finding old wine under the sea. So I was surprised to stumble on a reference in a book I was reading to my kids the other day, The […]


  11. […] 19th century Champagne Remember those old Champagne bottles found by divers in the Baltic? Well, they were popped open last week and one taster said that the Veuve Clicquot […]


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