Friday, July 23, 2010

Booty: Champagne For My Men!

Ahoy, Brethren, and welcome to Friday Booty. After what the First Mate called last week's "depressing for a Friday" post about the Gulf disaster and it's effect on our history, I thought I'd go back to drinking. After all, it is high on the list of favorite pirate pass times.

On Sunday last an article appeared in my local paper via the Associated Press. It reported that on Saturday divers in the Baltic sea discovered a circa 1780 shipwreck off the coast of Sweden. Among the interesting remains therein they found something that took precedence over all others: bottles of old champagne. Christian Ekstrom, the diving instructor on the site, seems to hint that the first part of the wreck to break the cold service of the water was one of those bottles. From the article:

"We brought up the bottle to be able to establish how old the wreck was," [Ekstrom] told the Associated Press. "We didn't know it would be champagne."

Since champagne bottles have always had a distinctively feminine curve to them, with a slender neck on top (see the green and clear bottles on the left at the header), one wonders just what kind of historians are on this treasure hunt.

At any rate, the divers were keen to know the contents of the bottle intimately and they did not hesitate to open it. The cork popped melodiously once everyone was settled on their ship and the team tried the 230 year old beverage of aristocracy. Despite being submerged at 200 feet for so long, the champagne was still delightfully drinkable:

"It tasted fantastic. It was a very sweet champagne with a tobacco taste and oak," Ekstrom said.

Sweet champagnes were the favorites around the world in the 18th and well into the 19th century. What is now referred to as Brut and Extra Dry were the rage up until the Belle Epoque. After World War I the mode began to change and now most people have a taste for much drier champagnes.

It has been suggested that the ship was probably a merchant, hauling cargo to Russia. Where her approximately 30 bottles of bubbly originated is still a mystery. Samples have been sent, of course, to France for testing but experts are already speculating. The oldest drinkable vintage of champagne so far recorded was an 1825 Perrier-Jouet. Swedish wine expert Carl-Jan Granqvist says in the article that, if all the bottles found are as drinkable as the divers say the first one was, each of the bottles of champagne could go for $68,000. Now that's an expensive evening from the start!

Your humble hostess is a great believer in champagne. As the song says, just once or twice, it's good for the soul. I am fond of Veuve Clicquot but it's all good. And a little sparkling wine yet more frequently never hurt anything either.

Finally, and on a completely different note, please consider clicking over to Restore the Gulf and signing the petition to help do just that. Be The One. Babord and his family say merci beaucoup.


Timmy! said...

Ahoy Pauline! And Happy Friday to you (although I know you are dealing with a sick child today... get well soon little monkey!)

It's nice to see a cheery Booty post again today... There was also a mention of this find at "A Blog About History":

Their link to the "full story" takes you to the AP article that was in our local paper (by way of and not making any political commentary here).

Looking forward to enjoying a glass of bubbly (or four) with you tonight, Pirate Queen!

Ozarklorian said...

I have a couple of champagne bottles from the Barataria Bay side of Grande Terre, but they were found empty :( They both date to the early 1800s.

Pauline said...

Ahoy Timmy and Ozarklorian!

Ozarklorian, How cool is that? Well, aside from the empty part. I'm betting those Baratarians put away their fair share of champagne in the boom years. Much of it, after all, would have been a Laffite commodity. And, as in this story, opening a bottle (or ten) on a prize is rather a privateer priveledge!

Timmy, this story just cracks me up. I've never been on a dive but I've done archaeological digs and com'on. You'd get fired for opening something like that. Even today the rules are different at sea, thank Poseidon!