- Associated Press - Monday, June 6, 2011

MARIEHAMN, Finland — An anonymous Internet bidder on Friday paid nearly $79,000 for two bottles of 200-year-old Champagne salvaged from a shipwreck at the bottom of the Baltic Sea, auction organizers said.

The buyer from Singapore paid a world-record price of almost $44,000 for a bottle of Veuve Clicquot and more than $35,000 for a bottle of Juglar. Both bottles are believed to be the oldest preserved examples of their respective brands. The buyer’s identity was not revealed.

The auction was held in the capital of the autonomous Aland Islands, a Finnish archipelago situated between Sweden and Finland, after divers found a shipwreck with Champagne and beer just south of the islands in July last year.

Researchers believe the ship was probably en route from northern Germany to the west coast of Finland when it sank in the first half of the 1800s.

Divers found 145 intact bottles in the wreck that lies some 165 feet deep in total darkness and a constant cool temperature - an environment experts say is the main reason the bubbly kept in such good condition. There were 94 bottles of Juglar, a now-defunct Champagne house, 46 bottles of Veuve Clicquot and four bottles of Heidsieck.

John Kapon, auctioneer at the event, said the buyer now owns a piece of history.

“This bottle was from the times of Napoleon, and it’s just something truly special,” said Mr. Kapon, who is CEO of Acker Merrall & Condit.

Although connoisseurs haven’t precisely been able to date the golden drink, they say it is from the early 19th century.

The proceeds from the auction will go to marine environment charity projects, organizers said.

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