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Sun., June 5, 2011, 5:11 p.m.

Oldest known Champagne bottles sold for $78,000 in weekend auction

Weekend special: The world's oldest known Champagne sold this week for $78,000, according to the Reuters News Service.

Two bottles of Champagne were auctioned in Finland Saturday at an event that drew interest from around the world. The two bottles spent about 170 years at the bottom of the ocean, having been found in a shipwreck dating from the mid 1800s.

The unidentified winning bidder was a Singapore resident placing bids via the Web.

Divers discovered the bottles among cargo found off a group of islands near the Finnish coast.

The original destination of the Champagne isn’t known. There is speculation it may have been headed for the tsar’s court in St. Petersburg. It was well preserved because it lay horizontally, under pressure, at a low temperature in the dark, 55 yards below the sea.

When one of the Champagne bottles was brought to the surface, the pressure change caused the cork to pop. One diver took a swig from the bottle expecting it to taste of seawater and realized that it was good. The team drank some from plastic beakers, resealed it and took it to a local sommelier, Ella Grussner Cromwell-Morgan, to taste the next day.

The authorities in Aaland, an autonomous, Swedish-speaking region of Finland, say the proceeds of the sale will go to a good cause, such as environmental measures to improve the quality of the water in the seas around Aaland, whose main industries are shipping, trade, banking, farming and food.

The oldest Veuve Clicquot previously held by the Champagne house dates back to 1893, said Francois Hautekeur, a winemaker with Veuve, who is assisting with preserving the Champagne.


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Tom Sowa
Tom Sowa covers technology, retail and economic development and writes the Office Hours blog.