What’s better than old wine in new bottles? For scientists, old wine in old bottles, preserved 150 feet down at the bottom of the sea. In 2010 divers were exploring a shipwreck in the Baltic when they discovered 168 bottles of what appeared to be wine. A quick swig from one of the long submerged bottles revealed that the liquid within was actually champagne.
The labels were long gone, but the brandings on the corks revealed the producers to be storied champagne houses, including Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin. The brandings, along with the age of the boat and other items on board helped researchers determine that the champagne was about 170 years old.
Now scientists have analyzed the contents of the bottles—and compared them to modern champagne.
They found the 19th-century bubbly had lower levels of alcohol. According to historical records, the fermentation happened later in the year than it does now, so the colder temperatures, along with the native yeast used would have led to a less efficient alcohol conversion.
And the old wine had significantly higher sugar content. The research team determined that the extra sweetness likely came from grape syrup, added to the champagne before corking. The work is in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. [Philippe Jeandet et al, Chemical messages in 170-year-old champagne bottles from the Baltic Sea: Revealing tastes from the past]
The scientists say these still marine waters are an excellent environment for wine storage.
That is, if you don't mind a deep dive before serving.
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]