Experts dismayed as 150-year-old wine tastes mainly of saltwater

A bottle recovered from a shipwreck turns out to offer a bouquet of sulfur and an aftertaste of seawater.

The bottle of wine was 150 years old when uncorked, yet the contents were not exactly the answer to a conoisseur’s dream. The bouquet was of sulphur and the aftertaste mainly saltwater blended with a slight hint of petrol.

The bottle in question was retrieved from the wreck of the Mary-Celestia, a steamship which sank off Bermuda during the American Civil War in 1864.

It was ceremonially uncorked at a festival in Charleston, the capital of West Virginia, where an audience of 50 people watched as experts sampled the contents.
“I’ve had shipwreck wines before,” said Paul Roberts, the master sommelier, according to Reuters news agency. “They can be great.”

This bottle, however, was different. It produced a cloudy yellow liquid, which turned out to consist mainly of saltwater. However, a chemical analysis of the “wine” showed it was still 37 per cent alcohol.

In total, five sealed bottles were retrieved from the wreckage of the Mary-Celestia by two divers in 2011. They were found inside a locker positioned on the bow of the ship.