By Lesley Ciarula Taylor - The Star
The best thing the winning bidders for two bottles of the world’s oldest champagne can do is pop the cork and drink it.
Sheltered 50 metres deep in a shipwreck in the chilly, dark Baltic Sea for nearly two centuries, the 170-year-old champagne is still in perfect condition, auctioneer John Kapon told the Star on Monday from Estonia en route to tiny Mariehamn, the capital of the Aland islands.
Likely destined for the Imperial Court of Tsar Nicholas I in St. Petersburg, Russia, the liquid history could still conjure up the very different tastes of the early 19th century, said Rainer Juslin, Permanent Secretary of the Government of Aland Department of Education and Culture and host of Friday’s auction.
“It is quite different from the modern product, but characteristic of the times,” he said. “More like a dessert wine, much more yellow coloured. Very sweet, but still very good.”
But it won’t last.
“The champagne after a couple of years will be destroyed,” explained Juslin,
“It was produced to drink.”
Juslin was among the select few who had a taste from one of the 145 bottles discovered and brought up last year from the shipwreck.
The bubbly remains “phenomenally youthful,” said Kapon, who represents the auction house Acker Merrall & Condit, one of the oldest wine auction houses in the world.
Pronounced still fresh and ready to savour by Swedish champagne expert Richard Juhlin, the two bottles represent the defunct Champagne house Juglar and the still-thriving Veuve Clicquot, which is a partner in the auction and will bring some of its own rare vintages to the block.
Investigators are still trying to pinpoint the history of the wreck, a two-masted schooner that likely sank in one of the Baltic’s ferocious storms in the early 1840s. Plates found on board date from the Rorstrands porcelain factory between 1780 and 1830.