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Mar 23, 2009

Ancient Champagne Redux

Chris James holding the 1893 bottle of Veuve-ClicquotChris James Holding the 1893 Bottle of Veuve-Clicquot

After reading my last post about the tasting of an 1824 Perrier-Jouet, a friend alerted me to a related story: the discovery last year of an 1893 Veuve-Clicquot--the earliest known bottle to bear the company's famous yellow label. Here's the original story, which appeared on the BBC website on July 28, 2008:

A "priceless" bottle of 115-year-old champagne has been found in a sideboard at a Scottish castle.

The 1893 bottle of Veuve Clicquot had been locked away in Torosay Castle, Isle of Mull, for more than a century. Owner Chris James made the find after employing a specialist locksmith to cut a key and open the piece of furniture. He contacted Veuve Clicquot, who said the bottle was the oldest in existence. The company now has it on display at its visitor centre in Reims, France.

When Mr James had the sideboard opened it became clear that he had unearthed a previous castle owner's personal drinks cabinet. Inside were a bottle of brandy, a port decanter, a bottle of claret and the single bottle of 1893 Veuve Clicquot.

The distinctive yellow-labelled champagne was in mint condition, having been kept in the dark.
"I really had no idea what to expect when the cupboard door was finally opened," he said. "I'm genuinely delighted that part of Torosay's 150-year-old history has turned out to be so important and the bottle is now on display in its rightful home."

Fabienne Huttaux, head of communications at Veuve Clicquot said: "The bottle is literally priceless. It is a one off and therefore unique.

"We would never consider selling it as it is far too important to us. It is a unique piece of champagne history.

"It was amazing to find this bottle and it's really an extraordinary story all in all."

Torosay Castle was built in 1858 for John Campbell of Possil, a wealthy Glasgow merchant.

He sold it in 1865 to merchant banker, Arbuthnot Guthrie, who lived there until his death in 1897. The castle was left to his favourite nephew, with the entire contents going to his widow. She removed all the contents except the solid wooden dining room sideboard, which was too heavy.

The drinks are believed to have been locked inside the cabinet since at least 1897.
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