Champagne is a popular type of sparkling wine, and evidently, it keeps well under the right circumstances, even if those circumstances mean it has sat at the bottom of the ocean for over 100 years. In fact, explorers found 170 year old champagne!
Scientists in a French study led by Philippe Jeandet, a professor in the Faculty of Sciences, University of Reims found this out when they popped open one of 168 bottles of 170 year old champagne found at the bottom of the ocean in a shipwreck in the Baltic Sea.
The team of researchers are some of the ones that have been analyzing the 170 year old champagne since they were found back in 2010. The cache of champagne is thought to be the oldest of its kind in the world, and consisted of champagne from famous wine makers such as Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin (VCP), Heidsieck and Juglar. It had to be identified via cork markings, as the labels had been washed off during the bottles’ adventure in the ocean.
170 Year Old Champagne Teaches About Wine Making Methods
The testing of several of the bottles of 170 year old champagne showed that wine makers at the time used techniques that made it about three times sweeter than today’s champagnes. The study, which is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, revealed also that the cold and dark environment in the Baltic Sea is one of the reasons the champagne has lasted this long in perfect condition.
The scientists were particularly excited to find out about the high sugar content in the 170 year old champagne, suggesting that it possibly was due to the wine makers using grape syrup and adding it prior to corking the wine. The champagne’s sugar content equaled 140 grams per liter, while many of today’s champagnes have no sugar added to them at all.
Champagne Shipment Was Headed to Russia
The facts of this high sugar content add to the adventure of discovering whom the 170 year old champagne was headed to on its ill-fated journey. It is guessed that it was possibly headed to Russia, as during the era the champagne is from, they were able to discover that the Russians liked extremely sweet wines and champagnes, sometimes preferring wine with sugar contents as high as 400 grams per liter.
The samples from the 170 year old champagne also had much higher amounts of copper and iron than today’s champagne. This is because copper sulfate was put in to keep the grapes safe from diseases, and the iron is thought to be from the nails in the wooden barrels that originally held it. Several of the bottles of 170 year old champagne have already been sold at auction since it was found in 2010, with one in 2011 selling for €30,000 ($32,277) and one in 2011 selling for €15,000 ($16,138).
Biggest Adventure Was Tasting Ancient Champagne
The biggest adventure the scientists had was having the opportunity to taste the 170 year old champagne! They reported that at first, the champagne’s notes were cheesy, somewhat like wet hair or an animal smell, but when they swirled it around in their glasses to give it some time to oxygenate, it was reported that the scent improved dramatically and was spicy, fruity, floral and smoky, and very sweet.
For more on drink-making processes, check out the 3rd episode of Wanderlust: