230-year-old champagne found off Finnish coast

By IANS/RIA Novosti,

Moscow : Bottles of world’s oldest champagne, believed to have been made in 1780s, have been found in a shipwreck in the Baltic Sea off Finland’s Aland archipelago.

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“Approximately 70 bottles of exclusive champagne will be lifted from a 200-year-old shipwreck near (the island of) Foglo in the south of the Aland archipelago. The well-preserved bottles, which lie on the seabed at the depth of about 50 meters, are now being lifted to surface,” Aland authorities said in a statement.

However, according to Sweden’s Tidningarnas Telegrambyra news agency, the bottles have already been brought up. It said the work was carried out secretly to keep the media and crowds of spectators away.

A group of Swedish and Finnish divers found the champagne in mid-July. Initially, they took one bottle to the surface in an attempt to establish the ship’s age, and found out that the bottle design was typical for the 1780s.

The champagne, which was stored in almost perfect conditions at a constant temperature of four degrees Centigrade, and out of the sunlight, turned out to be drinkable. If it is proven that the champagne was indeed produced before 1825, it would be considered the world’s oldest champagne and cost at least half a million Swedish crowns ($68,000) per bottle.

Finland’s Yle radio reported that French experts failed to establish the precise age of the champagne bottles, saying only that they were not produced by any contemporary enterprise. Swedish wine experts earlier said that judging by the special cork design it could be of the world-famous Veuve Clicquot brand.

The discovery has sparked a row between Swedish diver Christian Ekstrom, who lifted and opened the first bottle, and members of the Aland Maritime Historical Society, who accused him of stealing data about the ship’s location from them. Ekstrom denies the claims.

The date of shipwreck still remains a mystery. Scientists suggest that it could be a Nordic sailing ship which sank in the early 19th century while sailing to the Gulf of Finland from Gdansk in Poland or Copenhagen in Denmark.

The fate of the bottles is yet to be determined. According to local laws, objects older than a century are considered a relic and belong to Aland.