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200-year-old champagne found aboard Baltic wreck

Associated Press / July 18, 2010

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STOCKHOLM — Now that’s some vintage bubbly.

Divers have discovered what is thought to be the world’s oldest drinkable champagne in a shipwreck in the Baltic Sea, one of the finders said yesterday. They tasted the one bottle they’ve brought up so far before reaching shore.

Diving instructor Christian Ekstrom said the bottles are believed to be from the 1780s and probably were part of a cargo destined for Russia.

“We brought up the bottle to be able to establish how old the wreck was,’’ he said. “We didn’t know it would be champagne.’’

Ekstrom said the divers were overjoyed when they popped the cork on their boat after hauling the bubbly from a depth of 200 feet. “It tasted fantastic. It was a very sweet champagne, with a tobacco taste and oak,’’ he said.

The divers discovered the wreck Tuesday near the Aland Islands, between Sweden and Finland. About 30 bottles are believed aboard the sunken vessel.

Ekstrom said he is confident of the champagne’s age and authenticity, but samples have been sent to laboratories in France for testing. “We’re 98 percent sure already because of the bottle,’’ he said.

Swedish wine expert Carl-Jan Granqvist said each bottle could fetch $68,000 if the corks are intact and the champagne is genuine and drinkable.

“If this is true, it is totally unique,’’ said Granqvist, one of the experts contacted by Ekstrom and his team. “I don’t know of any other [drinkable] bottle this old. I’ve never even heard of it.’’

Granqvist said he had seen pictures of the bottle, and it had languished in near-perfect storage conditions — in the dark at a constant cold temperature.

According to French champagne house Perrier-Jouet, its 1825 vintage is the oldest recorded champagne in existence.

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