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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’.

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