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Mystery Wine From the Titanic

CBC News in Canada has reported that Betty Thomas in Halifax, Nova Scotia has what she believes is a bottle ofwine that came off the Titanic. The wine is an unopened champagne bottle of sparkling wine: Jeanne d’Arc Vin Mousseux, Cuvee Reserve. Family legend has it that Betty’s forebear scooped up the bottle whilst on his boat from the ocean which was littered with wreckage from the Titanic.

It’s presumed that the bottle was floating in a wooden case as it is in surprisingly good condition and has no water damage. The label looks more art deco (1920s) than art nouveau (1890 – 1910) to me and although “methode champenoise” is on the label there are no other signs of where it was produced. The night of 14 / 15th April this year is the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic.

There is a lot of speculation about what wines the Titanic was actually carrying but no one seems to know for sure. We do know that the Champagne onboard was Heidsieck’s Goût Américain Champagne vintage 1907. Salvaging materials from the Titanic is fraught with controversy and there is an ongoing court battle. The salvor-in-possession, R.M.S. Titanic, Inc. has salvaged unopened bottles of Champagne found on the Titanic which can be seen in their travelling exhibition.

According to the Titanic’’s manifest the Titanic was carrying 1500 bottles of wine, 15,000 champagne glasses, 20,000 bottles of beer and stout, and at least 850 bottles of spirits. The cargo manifest reveals further reserves of 17 cases of cognac, 70 cases of wine and 191 cases of liquor.

The White Star Line that owned the Titanic stocked relatively few Bordeaux clarets, compared to wines that could be served chilled, such as Champagne and Moselle, because the rumble of the enormous steam engines would dislodge sediment in the older reds.

The wine lists appear in the White Star Line’s ‘Notes for First Class Passengers’ and show a common provision for all ships on the North Atlantic routes. The 1910 edition lists Champagne (choice of 10), Claret (2), Sauternes, Hock (sparkling or still), Moselle (sparkling or still), Port (2), Sherry, Burgundy (Volnay) and Vermouth (French or Italian). You’ll note that there is no Vin Mousseux amongst the list.

It’s possible that the Jeanne d’Arc sparkling wine was onboard but not listed or that it was part of a passenger’s luggage. I can find no record of the producer in Champagne. However the region of Champagne-Ardenne is the birth place of Joan of Arc (Jeanne d’Arc), who came from the village of Domremy, now in the Aude.

There is a Cuvee Jeanne d’Arc made by Chateau de L’Aulee in the Loire but this is not a sparkling wine although de L’Aulee do produce a Cremant de Loire. Joan of Arc famously met with King Charles VII in Chinon so this is the inspiration for the wine’s name. The only other Jeanne d’Arc I can find is Château Kefraya, Cuvée Jeanne d’Arc, Blanc de blancs, located in Lebanon in the Bekaa Valley.

Without proper analysis it will be difficult to ascertain whether the bottle of Vin Mousseux did actually come from the Titanic or not. I’ll keep you updated if I find out any more information!

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2 Responses to Mystery Wine From the Titanic

  1. Martin Casey says:

    Sorry to put a downer on it but the expression “methode chapenoise” that is written (I think) on the label is usually used to describe a sparkling wine NOT made in the Champagne region. If it were Champagne it would say so.

    • Nick says:

      Hi Martin – I agree that this sparkling wine is not a Champagne – it states Vin Mousseux on the label (which translates as Sparkling Wine) and Methode Champenoise (which means it was made the same way as Champagne), indicating it comes from outside the Champagne area. As you say, if it was a Champagne it would probably say so.

      The Methode Champenoise is the method by which they make Champagne. However this method is not limited to the Champagne region and many other sparkling wines across France are made by this method -these wines can not be called Champagne as that name is restricted to the Champagne region.