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Third brand of antique bubbly found

Sept. 1, 2010: TODAYshow.com's Dara Brown on the champagne find.

A third brand of fine champagne has been identified in the remains from a shipwreck near the Finnish province of Aaland, local authorities said today.

The bottles of Heidsieck were in the cargo hull of a two-masted schooner thought to have been en route to St. Petersburg when it sank in the early 19th century.


Divers salvaged 168 bottles of champagne from the shipwreck last July, and by last November, experts had identified the world's oldest bottles of Juglar and Veuve Clicquot among the stash based, on markings on their corks.

Wine auction
Champagne expert Richard Juhlin told AFP that he wouldn't be surprised if the newly identified Heidsieck turned out to be the most sought-after and expensive of the three brands. "The Heidsieck Monopole is around 75 percent pinot noir. ... It has some flower notes, slightly more toasty notes than the Veuve Clicquot," he said.

The government, which claims rights to the shipwreck loot, plans to auction off the bottles at a recurring international wine auction held on Aaland. The prized champagne could fetch more than $100,000 per bottle at auction, experts have estimated.

The Juglar and Veuve Clicquot vintages taste like honey, perhaps with hints of mushroom and linden blossom, according to journalists who attended a tasting in November.

Ancient beer
In addition to the champagne, Christian Ekstrom, the local diver who discovered the shipwreck, has also recovered four bottles of beer with potentially surviving yeast culture.

Finnish authorities will allow one or more breweries to replicate the recipe of the beer. Ekstrom regards this as the larger coup from his discovery. In addition to being a diver, he's a manager of a pub for a local microbrewery called Stallhagen. He hopes his brewery will be one of those allowed to brew the ancient suds.

"I don't care so much about the champagne," he told AFP. "Champagne we can only sell or drink, but … we can use the beer to produce something unique and local. It's historically meaningful."

More on age-old alcohol:


John Roach is a contributing writer for msnbc.com. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by hitting the "like" button on the Cosmic Log Facebook page or following msnbc.com's science editor, Alan Boyle, on Twitter (@b0yle).