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Back in 2010, a team of divers looking in the Baltic Sea made a discovery that provided both a reason and a means to celebrate: a shipwreck containing 168 bottles of 170-year-old champagne. Five years later, scientists have used chemical analysis to determine what kind of champagne it was, and then handed it off to wine tasters to tell us how it was. Below are their findings:
It was less alcoholic
According to the researchers, this possibly had something to do with an overall cooler climate when the grapes were grown – the grapes would not have matured as much as modern grapes, and so would have produced less alcohol. In addition, it is possible that the vintners used yeast to ferment the wine, which is less efficient at creating alcohol.
It had more sugar
This one has more to do with the tastes of the time. Champagne-drinkers in the 1800s preferred more sugar in their beverages, leading vintners to add copious amounts of sugar to the drink. This may have also contributed to the lower alcohol content since the addition of sugar syrup after fermentation might have diluted the champagne.
It contained more minerals
Specifically, they contained higher amounts of iron, copper, and sodium chloride (salt). The iron and copper are probably due to containers that held the champagne during the brewing process, which would have been made with metal and wood on the inside. Also, copper sulfate was used about the same time as a fungicide and for disease control. The salt is not what you’d expect, though.
It contained salt
Since the bottles were at the bottom of the Baltic Sea for 170 years, it seems like a no-brainer where the salt came from – salt water slowly seeping into the bottles. However, it seems this is not the case (except for one bottle, which had been contaminated). During the brewing process in the 19th century, salt was repeatedly used to stabilize the champagne. Today, salt is added after the blending process, leading to much lower amounts of sodium.
It was aged in near-perfect conditions
After 170 years, champagne would usually have gone so, so bad. However, thanks to the frigid temperatures of the Baltic and the extreme low-light conditions in which the champagne rested, it was perfectly aged. As a result, modern vintners are investigating the possibility of using deep-sea aging
So how does it taste?
Grilled, spicy, smoky and leathery, with fruity and floral notes, according to wine tasters.