Shipwreck auction 2.0 in Åland 8th of June

Paris auction firm Artcurial Briest–Poulain–F.Tajan has been selected to sell Champagne that has been spent 170 years in a shipwreck on the Baltic seabed!

After an international invitation to tender, the government of the Åland Islands chose to entrust the auction of eleven bottles of Champagne to France’s premier auction house, Artcurial Briest–Poulain–F.Tajan. The decision constitutes fresh recognition of the firm’s Wine & Spirits Department.

In total, 162 bottles (79 of them still drinkable) were removed from the shipwreck, found on the seabed between Finland and Sweden, in 2010. During reconditioning, the corks revealed the champagne to have been produced by three different houses: Juglar, Veuve-Clicquot and Heidsieck. Of the 11 bottles to be offered for auction this June, 6 come from Juglar, a firm which disappeared in 1829; 4 from Veuve-Clicquot; and one from Heidsieck. Expert analysis suggests they date from 1841-50. Laurie Matheson and Luc Dabadie, Wine & Spirits experts at Artcurial Briest– Poulain–F.Tajan, have assigned an estimate of €10,000 to each of these incredibly rare bottles. The famous house of Veuve-Clicquot will enrich the catalogue of this historic auction with 17 further, prestigious lots from its cellars. Collectors and connoisseurs will be able to bid in Mariehamn, by telephone, or on internet via Artcurial Live Bid.

The Åland Islands first auctioned two bottles from the shipwreck last year. When one obtained a new world record price for a bottle of champagne, the Åland government decided to organize another sale in conjunction with Artcurial Briest–Poulain–F.Tajan – the first in a series of auctions to be called Åland’s Champagne Rendez-Vous.

The shipwreck and its cargo are the property of the Åland Islands. The provenance of the schooner remains a mystery, although the Åland government is carrying out extensive research with a view to reconstituting the its final voyage. A number of bottles are being kept for museum purposes. The rest will be sold at auction over the years, with proceeds going towards Baltic marine conservation.

Thanks to the constant pressure and temperature of 4-6° C on the sea-bed, as well as the ambient darkness, this liquid treasure retains exceptional aromatic and gustatory qualities. All the bottles have been tasted and assessed by the world-renowned champagne expert Richard Juhlin, in collaboration with Veuve-Cliquot’s oenologist François Hautekeur. After they had reconditioned the bottles in 2010, Richard Juhlin noted that "the bottles found on the Baltic sea-bed off the Åland Islands prove that champagne possesses an undeniable ability to age perfectly. No other wine could have survived in such conditions and developed such aromas. I have come across champagnes which tasted fresher or more elegant, but here the aromatic intensity is quite superb – the most powerful I have ever tasted, and incredibly long in the mouth."

The Åland Archipelago, situated between Sweden and Finland, includes 6,500 islands with a total land area of 1,527km². Just 80 of the islands are inhabited. The islands form one of Finland’s six provinces and are the Baltic holiday destination par excellence. In the 18th century the islands were invaded on three occasions by Russian forces, who erected the famous fortress of Bomarsund. Ålanders responded by founding Mariehamn – named after Maria Alexandrovna, wife of Tsar Alexander II – as their political and economic capital in the 19th century. The islands came under Finnish sovereignty after the Russian Revolution of 1917.

Last year confirmed the upturn for the wine market at auction – a trend that began in 2010, and was underlined by the 23% rise in sales recorded by the Artcurial Wine & Spirits Department in 2011. Champagne is a dynamic sector of the market – borne along by the great vintages which continue to sell well, and crystallize the attention of many clients, especially from Asia. Champagne’s ability to age is often forgotten but forms an expanding sector of the market – as proved by the Åland champagne: nearly half the bottles brought to the surface are still drinkable, and will remain so for decades to come.

Great champagne vintages, produced solely in France and in limited quantity, are rare. The bottles discovered offthe Åland Islands are the oldest ever found, and their re-sale will clearly be facilitated by the prestige of the brands involved and the rarity of the champagne being offered for auction, as well as its quality of conservation. Champagne made by the leading houses is a symbol of French luxury, and one which offers several advantages. Foreign clients with a penchant for de luxe French brands concentrate on the leading champagne houses, whose image and development are fostered by the large groups to which they belong, and who guarantee their quality and long-term reputation.

As with great wine, champagne’s value continues to grow. For instance, two bottles of Dom Pérignon Rosé, Vintage 1959, were sold at auction for e63,370 in April 2008. And, in 2011, Artcurial sold 6 bottles of Moët&Chandon 1911 for e45,000. And a new world record price of e30,000 was set for a bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne from the Åland Islands in 2010. No connoisseur or wine professional can therefore fail to appreciate that, when carefully chosen, champagne is a most excellent investment!

source: Artcurial Wine & Spirits Department and the Government of Åland.

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