By Monica Sabbatucci
When thinking of bottles in the sea, you’d expect they might contain some cryptic message from the past, but what if you found bottles that contained liquid gold or long-lost champagne? Not just any champagne; perfectly preserved and aged champagne that has lived at the bottom of the sea for decades, some even centuries. Such treasure troves have existed and subsequently produced some of the most expensive bottles of bubbly in the world. These discoveries have also led to a new and innovative process of winemaking, ocean-ageing!
1907 Shipwrecked Heidsieck
In 1916, Nicholas II Tsar of Russia, commissioned a Swedish freighter to deliver him a shipment of wine. However, a tragedy of war resulted in the champagne to never to arrive at its destined location. The ship was hit by a German submarine and subsequently sunk to the depths of the sea. It was that tragedy that allowed the champagne industry to celebrate the underwater treasures which were discovered in 1998. Included in the 2,000-bottle loot were some Vintage 1907 bottles of Heidsieck Monopole & Co champagne. An auction held at the Ritz Carlton in Moscow saw one bottle sold for a whopping US$275,000, making it the highest grossing sale to come out of the wreckage and also one of the most expensive bottles of champagne in the world.
Champagne Louis Roederer
In 2008, the esteemed Champagne House sent bottles of champagne to be submerged underwater in the bay of Mont Saint-Michel. After tasting, the house declared the bottles to be of 'significantly higher quality and better taste', than standard cellar ageing. Due to the rarity and scarcity of these wines, we can only imagine how good these wines taste!
Veuve Clicquot Discovery 2010
In 2010, a group of divers came across the sunken remains of a ship just off the coast of Finland in the Baltic Sea. Some 168 bottles of champagne were discovered in the midst of the wreckage and had in fact been stored at the depths of the ocean in perfect conditions for over a century! Amongst these bottles were several cuvees from Veuve Clicquot, identified by branded images on the corks, dating back to 1839. As well as the other finds from this discovery, these invaluable Veuve Clicquot bottles enabled scientists a rare insight into the winemaking conventions of the 19th century.
Various wine experts were offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to taste and comment on the shipwrecked bubbly, with the depth, minimal light and temperature of the sea providing ideal preservation conditions. The taste was described as “grilled, spicy, smoky and leathery with fruity and floral notes”.
Some bottles were sold at auctions around the world for around 100,000 euros each, whilst some were sent to museums and other historical institutions.
Veuve Clicquot 2014: Cellar in the Sea
Thanks to this discovery, Veuve Clicquot decided to run with the idea of preserving their champagne under the sea. The House sent 300 bottles and 50 magnums of champagne to the depths, close to the location of the first discovery in the Baltic Sea.
Designed to commemorate the find of 2010, the wines were sunk and buried 43m deep in a specially designed cache in the Aland Archipelago off the Finland coast, to be retrieved and periodically analysed over 40 years.
This unique and natural ageing technique is not only being deployed by the big brands of champagne but with the boutique producers like Drappier and Vollereaux both conducting their own undersea experiments. In September 2018, select guests of Emperor Champagne Club in Australia will be invited to taste these deep-sea gems in a fascinating side-by-side tasting with regular cellar aged champagne with the Vollereaux house members.
Many Champagne Maisons are embracing ‘ocean-ageing’ techniques and it’s causing quite a stir amongst other liquor industries. The discovery of shipwrecked beer, whiskey, wine and other spirits have opened up new possibilities for ageing alcohol to add a new dimension to their products.
We invite you to join us in experiencing these treasures in Melbourne and Sydney. Book your tickets here, places are strictly limited. Come and discover something truly unique.
Tell a friend and get excited for the mysteries that await!