Just under a century ago, on 03 November 1916, the two-masted Swedish schooner, Jönköping, was hit by torpedoes from a German U-22 and sunk into the depths of the icy Baltic Sea. Actually, there is some controversy over whether it was a torpedo that sunk her, or a dynamite charge or deck gun – but the end result was the same, whatever mechanism sunk her!

During the years of the Great War, it was profitable to run vessels with cargo, but the Jönköping was filled not only with a small amount of war materials, but with 4400 bottles of 1907 Heidesieck Champagne ‘Gout Americain”, 67 large barrels of cognac and 17 barrels of wine.

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This precious cargo had been purchased by Nicolas II, the last Tsar of Russia and was on its way to Finland – then part of Russian territory. When hit, the ship sunk to a depth of 64 metres, where it’s lain for the past 98 years. In 1997 the location of the wreck was located. And naturally, thanks to its cargo, it was always going to be a very lucrative haul for whoever managed to retrieve the load.

Nicknamed ‘The Champagne Wreck’ (for obvious reasons), some of the Heidesieck bottles were brought up, opened and apparently had survived their watery grave and tasted great. Sadly, the content held within cognac and wine barrels didn’t survive so well. But it was still hugely exciting news when in the early 2000s, about a dozen of the Bisquit Cognac barrels were recovered by Pernod Ricard (who at the time was the owner of Bisquit Cognac).

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However, the drinks giant was then more interested in its revival of the Martell brand, and these barrels ended up scattered around the country (and perhaps further afield). But one of them was recovered by the village of Saint-Simon near to Jarnac, and lovingly restored to its former glory by the association, Saint-Simon Village Gabarier. Jean-Jacques Delage, director of the association said that the barrel has “been repaired so that it won’t disintegrate by injecting polyurethane to foam to inflate the front of the structure”.

And on Monday 03 November 2014, this very barrel was returned to the home of Bisquit Cognac.

A ceremony was held to mark the occasion in Chateau Pellison, Cognac. Of the event, Loic Rakotomalala, international ambassador of Bisquit Cognac, said, “The adventure of this barrel is amazing. It’s return here is probably a sign of destiny”.

Read more about Bisquit Cognac.

 
Sources: sudouest.fr, charentelibre.fr, abc.se

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Jacki has been with Cognac Expert from virtually the beginning. She's the senior editor of the blog, and has spent much of her life living in rural France. Today she's based back in the UK, where she splits her working life between writing for Cognac Expert and working as a Paramedic at a large regional hospital.

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