Veuve Clicquot is Conducting a 50-Year Undersea Experiment on Its Champagnes

by Owen James Burke

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One of the 46 (or 47, depending on who you ask) bottles of Veuve Clicquot discovered within a 1840s shipwreck in the Baltic Sea, which was en route to Russia when it met its fate (Image: Commonconstitutionalist)

Veuve Clicquot has submerged a selection of its Rosé 40 meters beneath the Baltic Sea where 47 of their bottles dating back to between 1839 and 1841 were discovered four years ago, along with the Åland shipwreck. That wine sold for nearly $80,000 USD in 2009.

After sampling the 165-year-old wines, Veuve Clicquot cellarmaster Dominique Demarville discovered a surprising freshness that got the winery thinking. That’s not to say their the first ones with this idea, however.

An Italian winemaker has been doing just the same for several years in the Mediterranean simply because he ran out of space in his cellar, but he was so pleased with the outcome, he’s continued the process. More recently, French and Californian winemakers have been catching on too.

Then there’s also the craft brewery, Sunk Punk, brewing their beer in Davy Jones’ locker.

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In what is likely the first truly scientific study of its kind, Demarville has just travelled to the Åland Islands in the Baltic Sea to prepare an underwater cellar for 300 bottles and 50 magnums of Veuve Clicquot. Every two or three years, the house will be pulling bottles at various stages for analyzing the effects of underwater aging, and to conduct comparative tastings of the wines.

Demarville explained some of the chemistry behind the experiment to Wine-Searcher:

“The Baltic Sea is a cool dark sea with a temperature around 39°F (4˚C). There is very little current so the pressure remains constant and it is significantly less salty than other seas. These conditions allow us to measure the impact of the absence of oxygen on the aging process in a stable environment.”

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