Bubbly Champagne from 1840s Shipwreck Reveals a 19th-Century Sweet Tooth

First Posted: Apr 21, 2015 10:03 AM EDT

What does a 170-year-old bottle of bubbly taste like? Researchers have uncovered a shipwrecked trove of sugary, 19th century champagne and have revealed new details about centuries-old ways of making wine.

The shipwreck was first studied in 2010. Located in the Baltic Sea, the wreck contained a treasure of bottles of champagne and beer. While the beer was analyzed previously, researchers are now taking a closer look at the champagne from the haul, which was dated between 1830 and 1840.

The scientists cracked open three of the bottles of champagne, referred to as A11, A33 and B17. Then, they performed a series of chemical analyses on them. Surprisingly, they found that the bottles contained far more sugar than what is found in modern day champagne, according to Gizmodo. In fact, the bottles contained nearly three times as much, making the drink more sugary than some dessert wines today.

The bottles also had high levels of iron and copper. It's likely that the copper originated from copper sulfate, which was once used to protect vines against fungal diseases. The iron probably wound up in the wine from nails that held wooden fermentation barrels together.

"This is a type of wine we still drink today," said Andrew Waterhouse, an oenologist at the University of California Davis, in an interview with BBC. "So it's not an ancient relic, it's part of our current history-we do drink champagne these days. But this champagne is very different, especially with regard to sugar level."

This doesn't only tell researchers about champagne; it also tells them about the tastes that people had at that time period. It's apparent that many enjoyed a sweeter-tasting alcohol than people of today.

The recent findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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