Divers recently found 30 bottles of late 18th century Champagne, believed to be made by Clicquot (now Veuve Clicquot) between 1782 and 1786, on a shipwreck at the bottom of the Baltic Sea off the coast of Aaland, Finland. They brought a bottle to the surface and opened it to taste.
At around the time of American Independence, Champagne was a dessert wine consumed at the end of the meal, and it was very sweet with high residual sugar. Indeed, the high sugar probably helped preserve the Clicquot wine just discovered. The first recorded “dry” Champagne wasn’t produced until 1848 by Perrier-Jouet. Even the Champagne consumed in the earlier part of the 20th century was considerably sweeter than that we drink today.
Of course, the IWR tasting panel didn’t really taste the 18th century Champagne found at the bottom of the sea. This is one wine we missed in our Champagne Report of a couple years’ back. But based on diver Christian Ekstrom’s comments as reported by the BBC, I’ve created a tasting note on this wine.
Clicquot 1780s Doux ($69,000)
Preserved by the cold waters of the deep sea, this Champagne still shows fine bubbles. It also shows its age with tobacco aromas and oxidized flavors on the palate. [Note: Christian says the flavors were oak-like, but they probably also show the same kind of oxidized flavors found in the 1825 Perrier-Jouet opened last year in Epernay. The tasters there reported flavors of truffles, caramel and mushrooms and even a “slight nose of the sea”. Christian didn’t report any sea-like aromas, but they could have very well been missed by a taster who had just surfaced and was surrounded by the sea itself.] The 1780s Clicquot was very sweet by modern standards, reflecting the tastes of the time. Of course, this Champagne won’t be found at your local wine merchant, but authorities estimate that if you bid about $69,000 at the auction house, you may walk away with a bottle. Although we’ve not tasted this wine, we would probably give it a perfect 100 points just for surviving for 230 years.