under the sea
The discovery of 200-year-old champagne bottles in a sunken ship prompted Veuve Clicquot to pilot an amazing underwater cellar.
In 2010, the discovery of the wreck of a ship that had sunk in the Baltic nearly two centuries ago revealed an incredible treasure trove. Inside, over 168 bottles were lying in the disintegrating holds, including 47 bottles of Veuve Clicquot dating from 1839 to 1841. When the first of these bottles was brought to the surface, the cork shot out as a result of the change in pressure. The team of divers who tasted the contents discovered a sweet wine (in the 19th century, a large amount of sugar was added to champagne), with a slight fizz despite lying forgotten for 200 years. When these bottles, some of which were perfectly conserved, were tasted later on, specialists were surprised by the longevity of the wines, prompting Veuve Cliquot to repeat the experience.
In June 2014, it launched the Cellar in the Sea initiative off a small island in the Åland archipelago between Sweden and Finland, not far from where the wreck was discovered, submerging 350 bottles at a depth of 43 meters. The bottles lie in almost complete darkness, at a stable temperature fluctuating between 4° and 6°C. The aim is to “understand and compare how our wines age, between those in the sea, at a pressure of 5.3 kg, and those that are stored in our cellars,” explains Domi-nique Demarville, chief cellarman at Maison Veuve Clicquot. The special corks created for the occasion are more resistant to salt water, even though the Baltic is much less salty here than in the Atlantic Ocean. Different wines were submergedCarte Jaune in 75cl bottles and magnums, 2004 Vintage Rosé and semi-dry winesand samples are taken at regular intervals, then sent to the oenological universities of Reims and Bordeaux to study the different stages in their evolution. The experiment, which will run for 40 years, should lead to progress and innovation in wine storage. It should be pointed out that the bottles were submerged in a secret location, stored in a steel cage that cannot be opened by even the most perfidious of frogmen. The resident lobsters and shellfish keep watch in complete silence, ensuring that the operation goes smoothly.
© Roman Jehanno / Veuve Clicquot
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