Shipwrecked bubbly gives chemists a taste of the past

Champagne bottles from shipwreck

Champagne recovered from a shipwreck off the coast of the Finnish Åland archipelago in the Baltic Sea has given chemists a glimpse of past winemaking methods.

Image courtesy of Visit Åland

Champagne preserved at the bottom of the Baltic Sea for 170 years has given chemists a glimpse of past winemaking methods.

In 2010, researchers collected 168 remarkably well-preserved bottles of the bubbly booty from a shipwreck. Possibly the most striking feature of the champagne is its sweetness, measuring more than 140 grams per liter of sugar (champagne nowadays typically has sugar in the range of zero to 50 grams per liter). The cloying sweetness comes from grape syrup, rather than grape juice, used when making the champagne, chemists report April 20 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

At first, wine-tasting experts described the spirit in terms such as “animal notes,” “wet hair,” and “cheesy.” But after a little time to breathe, the champagne showed “grilled”, “spicy” and “smoky” notes.

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