Experts Tried Champagne Two Centuries Old and it Tasted... Cheesy?
What's the oldest wine you've tasted? I can put smart money down guessing that it wasn't 180 years old. And that would mean that a small team of archaeologists and oenologists certainly have some impressive bragging rights, after taste testing ancient champagne hauled up from the bottom of the Baltic Sea.
Of course, these experts weren't foolish enough to start guzzling age-old wine the second it was discovered. Recovered in 2010, a stunning 163 intact bottles of champagne from the 19th century brewing houses of Veuve Clicquot, Ponsardin, Heidsieck and Juglar were carefully tested for safety. Five years after their discovery, and after giving the all-clear, three of the Veuve Clicquot bottles were opened for some experimental enjoyment (in extreme moderation, of course).
According to New Scientist, the experts invited for the tasting didn't exactly start things off on a high note. "Sometimes cheesy" with "animal notes" and "wet hair" were the terms used to describe the bubbly wine, estimated to be between 170 and 180 years old.
After the wine was left to oxidate, however - via that same glass swirling that is often mocked in television and film - the wine reportedly took on fruity and floral notes with some smoky and even "grilled" elements. Of course, you can't actually smoke wine, but how their barrels were treated could have played a part.
Those barrels were hinted at again during early chemical analyses of the champagne, in which traces of copper and iron showed up - likely from the barrels' iron nails and instruments used during the winemaking process. However, these four brewing houses were professionals, and these metallic elements were too faint to spoil the wine. And being chilled (reaching only 40 °F) for nearly two centuries in complete darkness kept the drinks in perfect condition.
"Overall, our analysis confirms that this champagne has kept the intrinsic characteristics of what a champagne is," Philippe Jeandet of the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne, France, told New Scientist. "This is fantastic, to observe that after 200 years of ageing at bottom of the sea."
The chemical analyses was detailed in full in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
Archaeologists have concluded that the champagne was likely heading from Germany before it sank, but likely wouldn't appeal to modern tastes. That's quite different than how today's drinkers have received "Ancient Ales" - a project between expert Patrick McGovern, of the Dogfish Head brewing company, to recreate beers based on old recipes found from chemical analyses of jugs, bottles, and urns dating back to up to 9,000 years ago.
It may be that Jeandet and his colleagues are simply missing the point. Few can say they "love" champagne for its flavor, and no one ever said history had to taste good.
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