Previous archaeological works have yielded more than hundred years old beer and pretzels. Well, this time around we move from ‘pedestrian’ to ‘classy’ with the analysis of 170-year old champagne from the Föglö shipwreck. Originally found at the bottom of the Baltic Sea in 2010, the assessment of the ‘vintage’ liquor (in 168 bottles) entailed tasting. The French researchers (who else?) then published their findings after 5 years, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences – with the critique pertaining to a ‘super-sweet’ taste of the specimens with aromas of leather, tobacco and smoke.
In terms of history, the wine in question was made by the noted French champagne houses of Veuve-Cliquot Ponsardin (who are also known to have developed the first ‘modern’ champagne in 1811) and Heisdeck, and the bottles were probably transported to connoisseurs in Russia or Northern Germany. Unfortunately, the cargo ship sank somewhere between 1832 and 1838 – and its remains were discovered 165 ft below sea level, off the Aland Islands of Finland (the cargo also contained beer – as discussed previously in one of our posts). Interestingly, the champagne was found in quite an impressive state – partly due to the use of specialized corks that had higher density than regular wine corks to mitigate the effect of carbonation.
As for the chemistry and consequent taste, the wines were found to have a very high sugar content of 15 percent (as compared to 10 percent of modern-day dessert wines) and relatively low alcohol content at 9 percent (as compared to average of 13 percent in contemporary varieties). Additionally, the specimens were found to have elements of iron and copper in their aftertaste. The iron possibly come from the nails used in the wooden barrels, and the copper was probably derived from copper sulfate – a compound used for terminating fungus and mildew on grape vines. The researchers also found tinges of gelatin, which was again used for balancing the wine composition.
And in case you are wondering about the monetary value these vintage varieties could bring up, eleven champagne bottles from the Föglö shipwreck did go under the hammer in 2012, with the auction price coming at a whopping $156,000.
Featured Image Credit: Daniel Eriksson / www.visitaland.com