Those of you who know me or who have done one of our Loire Wine Tours will be aware that I am unashamedly biased in favour of our two local sparklers “Saumur Brut” and “Crémant de Loire”. I am not a fan of the upstart “Champagne”. And I am in good company with many wine writers both here in France and abroad considering that the average standard of our sparkling wine is superior to the average standard of the sparkling wine made in Champagne. Therefore I very rarely write about the latter. However, I make an exception in this case because it is a truly unique story. 170 years ago a ship sunk in the Baltic. On board were
168 bottles of Champagne from the houses of Veuve Clicquot, Ponsardin, Heidsieck and Juglar. In 2010 the bottles were discovered, still intact, lying at a depth of 50 metres. They were salvaged, chemically analysed and tasted. The results of this research has given an intriguing idea of the tastes of wine lovers in the middle of the XIXth. century. Philip Jeandet, professor of Food Chemistry at the University of Reims, (in Champagne of course) said that it was still an impressive wine, with a long length and notes of tobacco and leather. Professional wine tasters said that, despite it’s age, the wine still seemed young with floral notes and lots of fruit. Which is some achievement.
So what have we learned: Firstly that the wine must have been very well made indeed and secondly that, if you wish to keep your wine for as long as possible, put it under 50 metres of sea water.
So I’m going to raise a glass of Crémant de Loire to those anonymous winemakers of 170 years ago – and hope like hell I don’t find any taste of leather in the wine!