Christian Ekstrom, a local diver of Aland Island, located halfway between Sweden and Finland, could never have imagined that a casual diving expedition could have turned into such a big adventure of historic proportions. His exploration of the wreck of a two-mast schooner yielded one bottle after the other of rare, vintage champagne. Other things were also discovered – crates bursting with withered grapes, coffee beans, carpets; and spices, such as white and black pepper and coriander – but nothing compares to the 172 bottles of the beautiful bubbly that were brought up to the surface.
Although they had no labels on them, markings burnt into the corks revealed them bottles to be Juglar, a premium French Champagne produced by a small yet reputed producer. Juglar was stopped being sold after 1830, at which point it was renamed Jacquesson.
Various experts were consulted, from the modest ones on Aland Island and Sweden to the Gods of the sparkling drink in France. As its reputation spread, causing a massive interest among the Champagne-connoisseur world, experts such as Veuve Clicquot and Jacquesson were invited to the tiny island for a tasting and to replace the time-worn corks in 10 bottles. Clicquot said he was “overcome with emotion” when he first tasted the Champagne at this re-corking.
Finland Ancient Champagne
A member of the family that currently owns Jacquesson, the winery that took over Juglar, commented that the Champagne was from around the 1820’s and it was probably put into storage a while before it was shipped. Other experts were of the opinion that when the ship sank, it could have been on its way to Czar Alexander II in St. Petersburg. Although the exact date of the Champagne has yet to be decided, it may well find itself contesting against the other bigwigs in the oldest Champagne category.
Even as speculation rages on, the Champagne has been legally claimed by the government. According to law, anything discovered in undersea wrecks becomes public property if it is more than a 100 years old. The Government intends to put the bottles up for auction over a period of time. It is estimated that each bottle of this highly rare vintage could fetch something like $70,000. This beats the $21,200 paid last year for a 1928 Krug auctioned in Hong Kong.
Part of the auction proceeds will be used to clean up the Baltic Sea which has become increasingly polluted over the years. The Baltic Sea floor provided the most ideal conditions to preserve the wine – total darkness, 40 degree temperatures, and adequate pressure to keep the corks in. Man couldn’t have designed a finer cellar for such ancient Champagne if he tried. It only makes sense to give a little back to the Baltic Sea for a job excellently done, doesn’t it?