World's oldest champagne survives icy shipwreck
Alex Dawson/Aalands Landskapsregering
By Richard Vines - Bloomberg
As windswept, sparsely populated places go, Aaland is probably not the spot to sport an Amy Winehouse beehive or to go in search of a crowd.
Just 27,500 people live in this Finnish-controlled archipelago of 6,500 islands in the Baltic Sea, 11,000 of them in the only town, Mariehamn.
If you’re looking for vintage fizz, however, this may be just the destination for you.
In July, divers found a shipwreck, 50 meters (yards) down, in the waters south of Aaland. The hull was mainly intact and on board there was a precious cargo: bottles of Champagne that may be almost 200 years old, the Aaland Board of Antiquities says. Today, I am among 16 journalists scheduled to taste it.
“Despite the fact that it was so amazingly old, there was a freshness to the wine,” sommelier Ella Grussner Cromwell- Morgan told Aalandstidningen newspaper after trying a bottle that was opened. “It wasn’t debilitated in any way. Rather, it had a clear acidity which reinforced the sweetness. Finally, a very clear taste of having been stored in oak casks.”
The construction of the hull suggests it dates back to the early 1800s, and plates on board were manufactured by Rorstrand porcelain factory between 1780 and 1830, the antiquities board says on Aaland’s website.
The sweetness to the Champagne -- about 70 bottles were discovered and one has been opened -- prompted speculation it might have been headed for Russia.