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Best Champagne in the World

Updated on March 14, 2011

Best Champagne is 200 Years Old

What would you pay to share a batch of the best champagne enjoyed by Emperor Napoleon I and Empress Josephine?

Champagne expert Richard Juhlin did pretty much that recently when he savored a unique bottle of Veuve-Clicquot on a lighted stage in Mariehamn, the capital of Finland's island province of Aaland.

The intact bottle of Veuve-Clicquot had been salvaged from the frigid depths of the Baltic Sea, where it laid in a sunken ship for nearly 200 years.

Champagne with Hints of Linden Blossoms

Juhlin, surrounded by envious champagne connoisseurs from around the globe, pronounced the bubbly treasure as similar to Chardonnay, with hints of “linden blossoms and lime peels.”

Juhlin also sampled a bottle from the extinct house of Juglar. He described the Juglar as “intense, powerful and mushroomy.”

A representative of Veuve-Clicquot mused that Madame Clicquot probably tasted this batch herself. Historians dated the champange from the early 19th century.

Madame Clicquot took over her husband’s wine business about 1805 when she was widowed at the age of 27. Under her skilled hand, she guided the champagne business to royal notice and developed a novel champagne using a process called riddling.

During Madame Clicquot's expert stewardship, Napoleon and Josephine dropped in at her father’s hotel, and Napoleon decreed that her father be anointed as mayor of Rheims. At this event, we can guess that champagne corks popped and the royal dictator sipped Veuve-Clicquot with Madame Clicquot and her father, possibly the same batch tasted by Juhlin.

Of course this is all speculation, but that’s what makes history tidbits like this fun.

Best Champagne in the World

The bottles of the unique 200-year-old Veuve-Clicquot champagne lie neatly stacked inside the hull of the shipwreck at the bottom of the Baltic Sea near land, Finland.
The bottles of the unique 200-year-old Veuve-Clicquot champagne lie neatly stacked inside the hull of the shipwreck at the bottom of the Baltic Sea near land, Finland. | Source

Coronation of Josephine by Napoleon

Best Champagne has a Nose-Wrinkling Bouquet

At this special champagne event in Finland, audience members oohed and ahhed that the aroma of the Veuve-Clicquot was more pungent than modern wine and champagne. Spectators commented that the nose-wrinkling bouquet could be sniffed at several meters distance.

Juhlin said that bottles lying at the bottom of the sea are kept better there than in the finest wine cellars.

Francois Hautekeur, a Veuve-Clicquot representative, mused that Madame Clicquot herself probably sampled the batch recovered from the sea floor.

The salvagers recovered 168 bottles. Out of that, Hautekeur dated several bottles that came from Madame Clicquot’s winery. Employees are studying other bottles to determine their provenance. Historians believe these are the oldest bottles of champagne in existence.

“For everyone at Veuve-Clicquot, it’s like winning a championship,” said Hautekeur.

One Bottle of Veuve-Clicquot Valued at $135,000

As Juhlin surveyed the lines of champagne glasses, he speculated that one bottle of this Veuve-Clicquot could fetch $135,000 at auction. Most of the bottles are not in mint condition. Aaland officials plan to mix the shipwrecked bottles with modern vintages and sell them. The mix and mingle will allow buyers to sample the old flavor and also try a newer blend.

The champagne auction plan is an effort to place little Aaland on the tourist map and bring in a trove of visitors and their cash.

A Finnish bureaucrat made a lame attempt to urge the confiscation of the treasure and save them as “museum pieces.” But the Aaland officials would have none of that, knowing that  government bureaucrats save nothing and ruin everything.

Pack Your Diving Suit

As select audience members took turns at the line of champagne glasses to savor small sips of the rare find, one lucky and smiling man had earlier drank his fill of this 19th century champagne.

That man was diver Christian Ekstroem. He watched as others savored what he had salvaged, recalling that after he brought the bottles up from the sea floor, he said to his mates: “Let’s taste some seawater.” Aboard the salvage ship, Ekstroem popped the cork and drank long and deep from the bottle. “It wasn’t seawater,” he noted.

Indeed. No seawater is worth $135,000 a bottle.

If you would like a bottle of Veuve-Clicquot to brighten your Kobe beef and Russian caviar brunch, please visit the city fathers on the island province of Aaland for your bid number.

And don’t pack your swimsuit. It’s a diving suit you need. One never knows what’s waiting at the bottom of the Baltic Sea for your drinking pleasure. It could be the best champagne in the world.

Aaland, Finland

A markerMariehamn, Aland Finland -
Mariehamn, Finland
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The things that make Åland unique are its unspoiled archipelago and the beautiful bedrock, worn smooth by glacier ice.


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