An exclusive viewing of one of the world’s oldest Champagne bottles, which lay undiscovered for more than 200 years under the Baltic Sea, is being made possible for visitors to this year’s London International Wine Fair thanks to the sponsorship of a cork industry trade body.
A bottle of Champagne, one of 168 discovered off the coast of the Åland archipelago between Sweden and Finland last year, is being transported to the Fair by the Portuguese Cork Association, which will be showcasing the bottle at the ViniPortugal, stand E10.
The Champagne, sealed with natural cork, was pronounced to be ‘very much alive and remarkably fresh’ by Essi Avellan MW, editor of Finland’s FINE Champagne magazine last September. The bottle in question has since been resealed with another natural cork stopper developed by specialist consultants to the exact specifications of the antique bottles. The majority of the bottles are still immersed under water in a secret and secure location.
Divers discovered the Champagne last July at a depth of about 50m in the southern part of Åland’s outer archipelago. The ship is believed to have sunk in the early 1800s.
Initially, the divers took one bottle from the shipwreck and were surprised when its contents were intact. Sommelier Ella Grüssner Cromwell-Morgan tasted the first bottle and said it had: “very ripe fruit, tones of golden raisins and a clear aroma of tobacco. And, despite the fact that it was so amazingly old, there was freshness to the wine. It wasn’t debilitated in any way; rather it had a clear acidity which reinforced the sweetness.”
Some of the bottles come from the Champagne House Maison Juglar, which ceased production by the end of the 1820s while several bottles have also been identified as Veuve Clicquot from the branding of the corks, which feature a comet.
Carlos de Jesus, of the Portuguese Cork Association said the tasting notes from the Champagne experts were a tribute to natural cork as a closure over the centuries.
He said: “The fact that the precious liquid in these bottles has been preserved at the bottom of the sea for more than 200 years stands as testimony to the unique ability of natural cork to protect the Champagnes and wines of this world”.
The Åland Government has announced plans to auction some of the bottles this summer and the prices achieved could be some of the highest ever recorded sales of for single bottles of Champagne.
Wines and spirits logistics provider JF Hillebrand has been entrusted with shipping the world’s oldest bottle of Champagne to the London International Wine Fair.
The global PR agency Grayling has organised the appearance of the bottle at this year’s event. Grayling approached JF Hillebrand for the intricate shipment from Åland, which required meticulous packing, protection and temperature-control combined with expedited service to ensure that it arrived at London’s ExCeL in good time for the exhibition opening on May 17.