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This Week at St Mary’s

Shipwrecked Champagne

On the morning of November 3, 1916 the Jönköping, a Swedish freighter on its way to Russia was sunk by U22, a German submarine. With it descended to the bottom of the Gulf of Finland 3,000 bottles of champagne, 1907 Heidsieck & Co Monopole Diamant Bleu.

There they remained undisturbed until 1997 when a Swedish salvage team located the sunken ship. In Baltic Sea silt at an estimated 60 to 65 meters below the surface, the pressure is around six atmospheres, almost identical to that in a bottle of champagne. This meant an almost equal pressure inside and out; the temperature a constant 4°C; and in darkness, no ill effect from light, the conditions for preservation were ‘perfect’.

What at the time had been ‘rather ordinary’ champagne had become exceptional. Some of the bottles of the famed “Shipwrecked Champagne,” have been sold for $275,000. It has been described as ‘sweet, fruity with a fresh nose, dominated by honey and exotic fruit and raisins with an amazingly good balance and structure – leaving a most memorable and historic aftertaste’.

This description gives a hint of the quality of the wine enjoyed by guests 2000 years ago at a wedding in Cana in Galilee. Jesus Christ ‘helped out’ in a crisis – what looked would be a very bad outcome was transformed beyond all imaginings. The Gospel writer, John, identifies the story as the most wonderful picture of ‘redeeming
grace’. Very much still going on today.

Don’t let’s allow this treasure to remain ignored and near forgotten in silt at the bottom of the ocean! You and I can be part of a ‘salvage team’ to bring to light and into the experience of many (not at £200,000 a bottle, but FREE) the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. As Mary said to the servants, let’s ‘do whatever He tells us.’

Tom Gillum

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