To make champagne, a Maison must follow a complex set of rules. That long list certainly doesn’t include a caveat to age the bottles under the sea.
But, revered Maison, Veuve Clicquot, is bending the long-standing champagne laws with its oenological experiment some 40 metres below the Baltic Sea. The discovery of 168 near-perfect condition bottles on a sunken wreck off the coast of Finland in 2010 sparked the Maison’s most ambitious project yet — a 50-year ageing experiment in its Cellar in the Sea.
Surprisingly, the ocean floor is an optimal place to age wine. There’s little chance of spoilage with minimal light and an average water temperature of between 1.67 and 2.78 degrees Celcius. Those shipwrecked bottles are the perfect example. A team of scientists and expert wine tasters analysed the 19th-century find, confirming that the contained champagne was, indeed, drinkable. Though ‘wet hair’ and ‘cheesy’ were used to describe the initial aroma, aeration made way for more desirable notes of spice, smoke, and leather.
It’s imagined that, on first impressions, the more recently ocean-cellared vintages have a little more finesse than ‘wet hair’. But that’s for just 28 lucky travellers to know.
This June 22nd to 25th, Veuve Clicquot is holding its first-ever Solaire journey to the Cellar in the Sea. There are just 14 double rooms available on the adventure, making this the ultimate in intimate, once-in-a-lifetime tours.
The journey begins at the Maison in Reims, where cellar master Didier Mariotti takes guests through the vine-covered property, chalk cellar, and rarest vintages. A lunch in the gardens of the private Manoir de Verzy follows the tasting, and a La Grande Dame fuelled dinner in the invite-only Hôtel du Marc mansion concludes day one.
Twelve guests have the ultimate pleasure of staying at the chateau overnight, the rest transiting to La Caserne Chanzy in Reims.
From Reims, it’s off to Silverskår Island in the Âland Archipelago. Board a two-masted sailboat and enjoy the summer sun — and champagne — on the journey out there. Lunch is by Filip Gemzell of Michelin-starred ÄNG, and the midsommar dinner beneath the late-night sun by Swedish chef Titti Qvarnström (Bloom in the Park in Malmö).
On the final day of the tour, head to the site of Veuve Clicquot’s second cellar to enjoy a comparative tasting, led by Mariotti, of the chalk and sea-cellared champagnes side by side. PADI-certified divers can also join the guide to the seafloor to see the Åland cellar themselves. Then, there’s one final dinner by Mathias Dahlgren (Bon Lloc) before retiring and bidding the group farewell the next morning.
Tour prices have been kept well under wraps, but it can only be assumed that an experience of this ilk will come with a champagne price tag. Anyone interested must email the partner travel agent to find out more.
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Lead image: Veuve Clicquot