Veuve Cliquot Ponsardin. Heidsieck. Juglar. If you’re a bottle-popping aficionado, those names might sound familiar. All three brands have long histories—so long, in fact, that bottles of all three were found in a shipwreck off the coast of Finland in 2010, along with some similarly-aged bottles of beer. Scientists tested the beer a couple years ago, but full chemical analyses of the three champagne bottles they opened took some more time.


Gizmodo reports that Professor Philippe Jeandet of the University of Reims in the Champagne region of France led a team of researchers in chemically analyzing the contents of three of the bottles of champagne recovered. Findings were just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and revealed several interesting things about this ancient bubbly.

The champagne-making process, like other winemaking processes, has changed over time.

Here are some fascinating things researchers gleaned from analyzing the bubbly:

  • The shipwreck provided near-perfect aging conditions, including: temperature stability, coldness, and darkness
  • The 170-year-old champagne only boasted a 9% ABV, while modern champagnes are around 12% ABV
  • The ancient champagne was most likely sweetened with grape syrup
  • Traces of chemicals from wood, as well as iron from nails, indicate that this champagne was likely aged in wood barrels
  • While the champagne had low levels of acetic acid (which indicates spoilage), it had unfortunately lost most of its carbon dioxide during its long stay under the sea. Although aging champagnes and wines often makes them better, sometimes too much age is not a good thing.

That’s great, but how does it taste?

drinking champagne

Key words that tasters used to describe the initial taste of the ancient champagne were: Animal notes, wet hair, reduction, and cheesy. But as with any wine, swirling opens up a wider range of flavors via oxygenation. The research team wrote that,

Upon swirling the wine in the glass to oxygenate it, the aroma became far more pleasant, with the main aromas described as empyreumatic, grilled, spicy, smoky, and leathery, together with fruity and floral notes.

That definitely sounds more drinkable. While cheese and wine might go together, no one wants a champagne that tastes like cheese. That’s probably a relief to the auction winners who purchased 11 of the bottles from this shipwreck for a staggering $156,000 in 2012.

[via Gizmodo]

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