ANOTHER DISCOVERY IN A BALTIC SHIPWRECK
In July 2010, bottles over 200 years old were discovered in a shipwreck in the Baltic Sea. Between 1825 and 1830, a cargo galley sank with more than 150 bottles of champagne from different brands, including Heidsieck & CO Monopole, on board. In November 2010, the oenologists who examined the cargo revealed that some of the first bottles they found had the oldest known vintages of the following champagne brands: Veuve Clicquot, Heidsieck & CO Monopole and Juglar.
Mr. Juhlin, a Champagne expert, helped the authorities in Aaland inventory the bottles found at the bottom of the Baltic Sea. A total of 4 bottles were identified as being from Heidsieck & Co Monopole. He stated that the Heidsieck champagne had been kept under good conditions. "The Heidsieck Monopole contains around 75% pinot noir (…) It has floral and lightly toasted notes," he added.
He said that he could not assess the value of the bottles found. Upon tasting these crus, Mr. Juhlin estimated that each of the bottles could be worth as much as €100,000.
Most Expensive Champagne in the World
Shipwrecked 1907 Heidsieck $275,000
These hundred year old bottles of Champagne from the Heidsieck vineyard in Champagne took over eighty years to reach their destination. Shipped to the Russian Imperial family in 1916, a shipwreck off the coast of Finland caused this champagne to be lost at sea until divers discovered over 2000 bottles in 1997. Now they’re finally being sold at $275,000 to wealthy guests at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Moscow, at least. Of course, the wine’s extraordinary tale and incredible age are what makes it the world’s most expensive champagne.
In early 1900, Heidsieck & Co Monopole was the market leader in Europe. The rulers of Germany and Austria-Hungary, such as Tsar Nikolai II, were its faithful customers. Champagne was already known worldwide when in 1911, the King of England granted the Heidsieck & Co Monopole champagne house the prestigious royal warrant, in which the house then became “Purveyors of Champagne by appointment to his Majesty”. In Russia, for its part, where Heidsieck’s champagne was very well known and famous, Tsar Nikolai II’s personal orders even before Jonköping’s fateful journey exceeded a modest 400,000 bottles.
From the bottom of the ocean to a world record
On the morning of 3 November 1916, the German submarine U-22 stopped a small Swedish schooner, Jönköping, off the Finnish coast. In the cargo hold of this unlucky ship were 3,000 bottles of champagne, 10,000 gallons of cognac, and 17 barrels of Burgundy wine that had been ordered by the court of Tsar Nikolai II. The commander of the U-22 decided to sink the schooner but save the lives of its crew. The ship sank into the depths of the Sea of Bothnia in less than an hour.
On the morning of 22 October 1998, in an auction hall in London, the tap of a gavel ended a long-running tender competition – a world record had been born. More was paid for a champagne bottle that had lain in the cargo hold of Jönköping for 82 years than for any other champagne bottle before that.
Jönköping was built at the Sjötorp shipyard in 1896. It was 20.5 metres long and 6.67 metres wide, and was equipped with an 18 horsepower oil engine. The ship was loaded in Gävle on 26 October 1916, and was ready to make its way to Rauma, Finland, for the tenth time that year.
After a few hours of travel, however, poor weather interrupted the journey, and Jönköping had to anchor down and stay put for a few days. The unsuccessful attempt of the ship to return to Gävle on time created a rumour that a German submarine had sunk it – a rumour that ironically later proved to be prophetic. By 2 November, the weather improved noticeably, and the captain along with his crew decided to continue the journey toward Rauma.
At the same time, a German submarine U-22 was positioned 12 nautical miles southwest from Rauma. Even though the commander of the submarine, Bruno Hoppe, had along with his crew already the previous day sunk two Swedish ships, it did not fully satisfy the captain. The sun had not quite risen yet, but the lookout could see and hear for 8 miles despite the slight morning fog. At 5:00 am, he suddenly heard a weak sound. It was the sound of a motor. The commander was called to the lookout spot, and he immediately decided that they should look into the matter. The U-22 left its position and guided towards the sound that was coming from the west.
The night was tranquil and calm on the Jönköping. The ship had made its way across the North Sea without any troubles. Because of the dusk and fog, however, the Finnish coast could not yet be seen. Therefore, the schooner cruised calmly in front of Rauma, waiting for dawn. Suddenly, a small island was detected from the ship, and fearing that the coast was already too close, they turned Jönköping toward the open sea. Soon they noticed, however, that the island was not an island but rather a German submarine, which quickly overtook them!
Commander Carl Scherb ordered the captain of the schooner, E.B. Eriksson, to turn off the ship’s engine and go up to the submarine to show the ship’s papers and explain its cargo. Scherb soon realised that the cargo contained contraband, and he announced to Eriksson that the ship was to be sunk. Eriksson did whatever he could to save his ship. He suggested that they throw the entire cargo into the sea and even offered to transport it to the nearest German harbour. Scherb had, however, already made his decision and stuck to it; this was Jönköping’s tenth journey that year with contraband, and Scherb’s message was – there is a limit to everything, Jönköping’s time had come.
Two crewmembers of the U-22 rowed to the schooner carrying explosives. After setting the explosives, the men in a hurry took as many bottles of champagne as they could from the ship and then left it. Except for these few bottles, the whole cargo load sank deep into the bottom of the sea along with the ship.
The search for Jönköping commenced at the end of May 1997, in which a Swedish search party found the wreck at a depth of 64 metres. Only in July, when the diver returned from the wreck with a bottle of Heidsieck Monopole Goût Americain from 1907 in hand, was it confirmed that it really was Jonköping. (The same product and vintage had also been stored on the Titanic when it sunk in 1912.)
The first bottle that the diver brought up, however, did not have a label or anything that would have immediately told what champagne the bottle in question held. The leader of the search party, Peter Lindberg, had the honour of opening the first bottle. This is how he reflected upon it:
– I stood at the bow of my ship with my whole crew around me holding plastic cups, waiting for me to open the bottle. I held the cork tightly and tried to pull it up, but suddenly it was really tightly stuck. I had to use force to get it to move, and finally the cork got loose from the bottle accompanied by a little ‘plop’ sound. I was surprised that my heavy-handed handling had not broken the cork. I carefully smelled the cork. My first reaction was that it did not smell very good. There was, however, writing on it: Heidsieck & Co. Reims at the bottom and Goût Américain 1907 on the side. I handed the cork forward and placed the bottle underneath my nose and smelled. Already it smelled much better than the cork, and I knew immediately that the bottle did not contain water but instead champagne. The others around me also smelled the cork, and their reactions were somewhat similar to mine. Therefore, when I placed the bottle on my lips and tasted the first gulp, I thought I sensed crazy things. The taste was very strong, sweet, and fruity. The drink was actually very good! The others were observing me very closely to see my reaction. I took the bottle from my lips, and a smile lit up my face. As a result of this, many plastic cups were immediately held out in front of me. Because I had survived the first sip, my crew wanted to enthusiastically also get to taste this brilliant champagne.
Recommended glass shape
Average Bottle Price
|2 970€ +11.9%||2 655€ +32.2%||2 009€ -37.4%||3 211€ -25.1%||4 288€ +18.0%||3 633€ -5.5%||3 845€ +164.3%||1 455€|