Shipwrecked Champagne from World War I Sells for Big Bucks

© Ben Wiseman

By James Oliver Cury Posted April 08, 2016

A rare bottle of Heidsieck Monopole 1907 changes hands once again.

Some bottles of Champagne go on very long journeys before they are consumed. In the case of shipwrecks, centuries can pass before a case is discovered, but the conditions may be ideal for long-term storage if the water is cold, the wreckage is deep, and the corks withstand the pressure. One such bottle sold for €6,010 ($6,857) at auction recently. Here's the back story:

On November 3, 1916, a two-masted schooner called the Jönköping left the Swedish port Gävle heading for what would now be Finland (it was in Russian territory at the time). A German submarine, thinking the ship was transporting war materials, shot it down with either dynamite or guns; torpedoes would not have been used for this kind of takedown. The boat then lay in the Baltic Sea for eight decades until it was discovered by divers in 1997.

No jewels or coinage were retrieved, but the vehicle was packed with precious booze, including 4,400 bottles of Heidesieck Monopole 1907 Champagne "Goût Americain"—intended for officers in the Russian army. Nineteen years later, one perfectly preserved bottle from that motherlode was sold—from the collection of Pierre Bergé, Yves Saint Laurent's partner and co-founder—for more than the anticipated price.

If it's anything like other bottles from the wreckage, it will taste just fine, with no hint of the sea. In a description of a different bottle from the same lot, one lucky taster noted that while the labels had disappeared, the foils remained, and the Champagne was "fantastically youthful" in colour and vibrancy, "remarkably light-bodied" and "extraordinarily elegant" with "a little sweetness" on the palate and "toasty aromas of great finesse."

You can see the scuffed bottle, still sealed, and the box that housed it at the Pierre Bergé auction site.

[h/t The Drinks Business]

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