Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Miraculously Old Champagne

There’s old wine, and then there’s old wine. Last week, a Finnish diving instructor discovered a cache of the latter in the Baltic Sea: 30 bottles of Clicquot Champagne that are believed to be from somewhere between 1782 and 1788. According to a report on the BBC’s web site, “The bottle - whose shape indicates it was produced in the 18th Century - has now been sent to France for analysis. If confirmed, it would be the oldest drinkable Champagne in the world.”

What makes this even more remarkable, however, is the fact that the wine is apparently still in good condition. The discoverer, Christian Ekstrom, opened one of the bottles on his way back to shore and, afterward, described it as “[f]antastic...It had a very sweet taste, you could taste oak and it had a very strong tobacco smell. And there were very small bubbles."

There’s a lesson here: Great Champagne, though typically ready to drink upon release (specific vintage bottlings, like the Krug 1996, notwithstanding), often benefits from some time in the cellar. Personally, I always purchase multiple bottles of Champagne in order to follow its evolution through the years.

In response to this discovery, The Champagne Bureau sent out an email recommending the following steps to ensure that your precious bottles last. Their advice is below:

Aging – Although Champagne has already reached maturity by the time it is released, you can successfully store it for years in your own home. Make sure that your bottles are kept in a cool, dark place (like a shipwreck!).

Chilling – We recommend keeping the bottle cool, ideally between 45-50 degrees. When you are ready to enjoy it, serve the Champagne well-chilled. A Champagne bottle usually reaches its ideal temperature after twenty minutes in a bucket filled with ice and water.

Opening – Start by cutting the foil and undoing the wire cage, with the bottle pointed away from your face. Always hold the cork in one hand and gently twist the bottle with the other. You will feel the cork easing out.

The right time to drink Champagne – It’s always the right time to enjoy Champagne. Real Champagne only comes from Champagne, France!


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