A wine lover’s “Hope Diamond.” It was found in 2010 in a wreck lying on the bottom of the Baltic Sea. Chemical tests reveal that it had a metallic taste and was very sweet, just as the people preferred it back when it was bottled and corked…170 years earlier.
In 2010, in 160 feel of water off the coast of Finland, the bottle was identified with a wreck sunk in the Baltic Sea in 1840: its load of champagne bottles was found mostly intact. Years later, a team of researchers revealed that the alcohol content was still in excellent condition, although the taste was a bit different from what we are used to sipping today on important occasions. The results of the singular “tasting” have since been published, allowing us to reconstruct some wine-making practices of the past.
A brief history of an old wine
The treasure discovered on the seabed included 168 bottles of three historic champagne houses, Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin (VCP), Heidsieck (Piper-Heidsieck today) and Juglar (the latter absorbed by Jacquesson & Fils in 1829). In addition to these relics, the divers also brought up a few cases of beer, passed off to a second team of researchers.
The stock of 11 wines was put up for auction in 2012, collecting bids for more than one hundred and fifty thousand dollars. The sommelier experts described the blond nectar as “spicy,” perhaps because, despite the caps they had stayed in their place, the hundred-year rest had caused the loss of much of the carbon dioxide. Rather than notes of bubbles, they could only perceive a slight tingling on the tongue.
A chemical investigation ensued
To conduct their research, scientists (mainly French) were obviously not entrusted only to their taste buds, but have focused on a range of laboratory techniques that allowed them to compare the “Baltic Champagne” with that produced currently by Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin. The response was that the nineteenth-century sparkling wine contains high concentrations of iron and copper, had a lower alcohol content than current versions (approximately 9.5% instead of 12.3%) and had a very sweet taste.
If the first two characteristics depend on some technical differences in the wine-making practice (for example the low gradation probably derives from the use of selected yeasts less than modern ones), as regards the high sugar content it would instead of a choice well weighted, reflecting the tastes of the time. In the samples, they recorded a concentration of more than 140 grams of sugar per liter: to have a yardstick, today the most common sweet sparkling wines the value is about 80 grams per liter.
According to historical reconstructions, the load was intended for wealthy families in Germany, where this type of taste was particularly appreciated.
The Best Wine Cellar for Preserving Champagne
Nature’s own climate-controlled underwater cellar. The conservation status of the bottles was favored by the darkness and the constant cool temperature of the waters of the Baltic Sea. Ideal conditions have intrigued Veuve Clicquot, which last year sent some of its sparkling wines right down to the sea (on purpose), close to where the wreck was found. With this experiment, the company plans to test whether the discovery of the nineteenth century champagne has not unwittingly opened the door to a new and unusual aging method.