A group of divers exploring a shipwreck in the
Baltic Sea have found bottles containing what
is thought to be the oldest drinkable champagne
in the world, made in the late 18th century.

"I picked up one bottle just so we could find
the age of the wreck, because we didn't find
any name or any details that would have
told us the name of the ship," diver
Christian Ekstrom (below)
from Aland said.

Ekstrom and his Swedish diving colleagues
opened the bottle and tasted the contents.

"It was fantastic ... it had a very sweet taste,
you could taste oak and it had a very strong
tobacco smell. And there were very
small bubbles," he said.

Experts said the shape of the bottle showed
it was from the late 18th century, and the bottle
and its contents have been sent to champagne
specialists in France to be analysed.

"We are 98 percent sure that it is Veuve Clicquot
champagne and that it was (made) between
1772 (the year the business was established)
and 1785," Ekstrom said, adding that the cargo
vessel was probably sailing to St Petersburg,
the then capital of Russia. The current title of
the world's oldest champagne is held by
Perrier-Jouet, which has
two bottles from 1825.

Richard Juhlin, a Swedish champagne specialist,
told the newspaper Alandstidningen he believed
the champagne was Veuve Cliquot and said
that if it was from the late 18th century,
it could cost around 500,000 Swedish
crowns (£44 000) a bottle.

Because the wreck lies off Aland, an
autonomous part of Finland, the local
authorities will decide what will be
done with the wreck - and
the champagne.

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