A mystery in South China Sea: Cognac bottles discovered in vessel wreck from 17th/18th century

Exclusive story:
One of our readers just shared this extraordinary news with us. Cognac bottles found in an unkown wreck in the South China Sea. How exciting. Let’s see if we can find some information on this one together. The only way to date the sunk vessel, is to identify this Cognac bottle!

Old bottle found: The only way to date the vessel, is to identify this bottle

Old bottle found: The only way to date the vessel, is to identify this bottle

There are some open questions… and the crew needs help from cognac experts. They found all different bottles in a sunk ship, lying on the ground of the Chinese sea:

site where it was found, in the sea, close to former Dutch colonies

site where it was found, in the sea, close to former Dutch colonies

The crew has determined that the ship was Dutch, then they brought up the Cognac Brandy bottle. But it is slightly confusing, that it says “Cognac Brandy” – so now they are wondering if the vessel used to be British…

the old bottle

the old bottle

This bottle is very special as they found it on a wreck while diving a site that was thought to be Dutch around the late 17-18th century. Below you see the Dutch colonies in the area.

Durch Empire

Durch Empire

The wreck was just discovered and the “underwater-Indiana Jones” now want to determine the origin of the vessel – and the only way they can currently do is by analyzing Cognac/brandy bottles they have retrieved.

Bottom of the bottle

Bottom of the bottle

There may be more down there with corks and they imagine the content would be unpalatable… but it could actually be still good.

Blueberry, found in a ship underwater

Blueberry, found in a ship underwater

Also, they found 7 black wine bottles with content and 7 aqua fruit bottles with various fruits, what appear to be blueberry, gooseberries and what appears to be olives. There are so many more bottles of all different types.

artifact Champagne-style bottles

There are Cognac bottles and Champagne style bottles. Funny enough, that the people who found this ‘treasure’ have a white wine vineyard of their own in Australia!

However, the English seal makes us wonder if it was not in fact an English vessel?

Actually, one could think that it was a Dutch merchant with some brandy, made in Cognac, which was originally determined for the English market OR it was a Dutch producer in the area, that used different bottles.

Now, let’s put this into a historic context: The 17th and 18th century and Cognac

  • 1638: Lewes Roberts mentions a wine called Rotchell or Cogniacke
  • 1643: Philippe Augier founds Cognac Augier, 15 years later on the company is turned into Augier Frères
  • 1678: Cogniack Brandy is mentioned in the London Gazette
  • 1696: Louis XIV. grants the family of Frapin a high aristocratic status
  • 18th century: first trading houses are founded. They acquire eaux-de-vie (spirits) to resell them to buyers in Northern Europe, Netherlands and England
  • 1709: The vineyards of Saintonge are destroyed by a very cold winter
  • 1725: Isaac Ranson founds a trading house in the town of Cognac. The goods are shipped to Ireland and Holland
  • 05.06.1731: Louis XV. forbids planting of vineyards without authorization
  • 1742: Cognac exports rises
  • 1762: James Delamain becomes a partner of Ransom & Delamain in Jarnac
  • 1765: James hennessy/”>Hennessy, a former army officer under Louis XV., founds Cognac Hennessy
  • 1779: There are now ten trading houses in the centre of the town of Cognac.
artifacts from a wreck

artifacts from a wreck

I actually asked them to go back down to the wreck to get some bottles which are still full, and not empty! Let’s see, perhaps someone of the Cognac Expert community can help out. Thanks in advance, and let’s try to solve this riddle.

You might be interested in these articles:

4 Responses

#1 Stefan on Aug 7, 2010, says:

This is a exciting found. Too bad the cognac bottles are empty. I need to know whether the vessel is VOC or not before I could come up with possible names. The last VOC vessels lost in that region went between 1780-1790.

#2 earlyglass on Sep 19, 2011, says:

why not try asking an expert on the bottles, not the contents?….
The bottles are classic late 18th early 19thC French cognac (of course) and the seals are made for export to the British and English speaking market. I’d have to see more of the other bottles closely especially the pontil marks on the base which I can’t quite see, to date the wreck more accurately.
regards
Mark

#3 kevin on Apr 9, 2012, says:

i was wondering if you could help me i have like 12 old bottles and wanted to know if they were of value i can send you pics through emaile jus contact me

#4 Roze on Jan 10, 2014, says:

Hey guys, here is an update, the vessel is an English cargo ship the “Viscount Melbourne” She foundered in 1842.

Face Book The Wreck of the Viscount Melbourne https://www.facebook.com/wreckoftheviscountmelbourne?ref=hl

We have retrieved a bottle that is 3/4 full. Only 2 bottles found the other one featured in this blog.

There were a large amount other wine, Champagne and fruit bottles.
All of the artifacts found are destined for a Maritime Museum to be established in Miri – Sarawak BORNEO

I would like permission to use this blog page in our new website that is being built??

Leave a Comment

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.