Cashing in on 19th century champagne, 11 bottles for sale

Fri Mar 16, 2012 4:31pm EDT
 
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By Leslie Gevirtz

(Reuters) - Like smart investors who dispose of their stocks, the government of Aland, a string of islands off the coast of Finland, is selling 11 bottles of antique Champagne from a cache of 145 found at the bottom of the Baltic Sea.

Divers from Aland stumbled across the Champagne and beer while exploring a shipwreck in July 2010. The owner of the vessel and its destination remain unknown, but the sunken craft and its cargo now belong to the government of Aland.

"We began by selling two bottles of this antique Champagne at an auction last year," Rainer Juslin, head of Aland's Department of Education and Culture, said in a statement announcing the sale.

One of two bottles, a Veuve Clicquot, sold for $43,630, at the auction at New York wine house of Acker, Merrall & Condit, setting a world record price for a single bottle of Champagne.

The French auction house Artcurial, Briest-Poulain-F. Tajan will conduct this year's auction on June 8 at the Alandica Congress & Conference Center in Mariehamn, Aland.

Four bottles of Veuve Clicquot, one bottle of Heidsieck & Co and six bottles of Juglar, a champagne house that ceased to exist in 1829, will go to the highest bidders.

Before their discovery the wines had been kept undisturbed, 150 feet deep in the Baltic at temperatures of 39-43 degrees Fahrenheit (4-6 degrees Celsius) -- perfect wine cellar conditions.

"It tasted sweet, but it had that really crisp acidity that made it so balanced," Ella Grussner Cromwell-Morgan, a sommelier who lives on Aland, said in an interview after tasting several bottles last year.

Veuve-Clicquot dated their bottles from the period around 1841-1850. A couple of bottles have been kept for museums and the proceeds from the sales will be donated to foundations for improving the quality of the water in the Baltic and maritime archeological research, according to the government.

(Reporting By Leslie Gevirtz; editing by Patricia Reaney)

 
A man holds a bottle of champagne at the Vinitaly wine expo in Verona April 3, 2009. REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo