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18.1.11


Champagne experts have discovered what are believed to be the oldest existing bottles of Heidsieck champagne, salvaged from a shipwreck near the Finnish province of Aaland, local authorities said Monday.

Divers stumbled across a cargo of around 150 champagne bottles last July in a two-masted schooner which had run aground sometime between 1825 and 1830, and by last November experts had already identified the world's oldest Juglar and Veuve Clicquot brands among the bottles.

"When re-corking the almost 200-year-old bottles a third brand has now been discovered," Aaland authorities said in a statement.

Four bottles have been identified as having come from the Heidsieck & Co Monopole house, which is now owned by Vranken Pommery Monopole.

"In the 1800s and the beginning of the 1900s it was one of the leading champagne houses, and it was one of those that we expected we might find in the cargo," Richard Juhlin, one of the world's leading champagne experts, told AFP.

Juhlin, who has been helping local authorities re-cork and catalogue the champagnes, added that only one of the Heidsieck bottles was in prime condition.

"The Heidsieck Monopole is around 75 percent pinot noir... It has some flower notes, slightly more toasty notes than the Veuve Clicquot," he said.

Juhlin said he couldn't put an exact price on the Heidsieck, but said he would not be surprised if it turned out to be the most sought-after and expensive of the three brands.

He had earlier estimated that the bubbly from Veuve Clicquot and the now-extinct Juglar could fetch up to 100,000 euros (132,000 dollars) per bottle.

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