Brand Snapshot | Cookson Adventures launches exclusive expedition to recover historic haul of wine from World War I shipwreck

Cookson Adventures has unveiled an opportunity to be part of an exclusive expedition to salvage rare wine, champagne and cognac from a ship sunk at the end of World War I.

Having laid undisturbed since 1918, when it was struck by a German U-boat torpedo whilst sailing to the U.K. from Bordeaux, Cookson Adventures has determined the location of the shipwreck through a partnership with maritime experts 10994 Ltd. Following research of archival data uncovered by 10994, and with local knowledge and guidance from dive and survey expert Nigel Hodge of Cornish Fishing, the British ship has been located 100 metres below the surface of the English Channel, off the coast of Cornwall.

An initial dive to the wreck by 10994, with only 12 minutes of air to investigate merely a fraction of the vessel, revealed several hundred seemingly intact bottles of vintage alcohols. The historic value of thousands of these extremely rare bottles, including vintage champagne, wine, fortified wine and brandy, could be hugely significant.

Régis D. Gougeon is a Professor of Chemistry & Enology and Adjunct Director of the Institute de la Vigne et du Vin (IUVV) Jules Guyot at the University of Burgundy in Dijon. He said, “This is an extremely exciting project, which definitely falls within our expertise and interest for the chemical messages brought by very old samples of wines, spirits and other beverages, as shown for instance in our recent joint research on Baltic Champagnes with Prof. Philippe Schmitt-Kopplin from Technical University of Munich, and Prof. Philippe Jeandet from University of Reims. There is no doubt that the samples extracted from the site will have great historical significance as we are not aware of such a wide and aged variety of wine, champagne and brandy being found before in UK waters. This will be hugely important for our ongoing research and for world history as we know it.”

There is strict governance over the ownership of such assets, but the Marine Management Organisation has agreed in principle for 50 bottles of this historic haul to be released exclusively to Cookson Adventures for testing under scientific conditions. Wessex Archaeology, a trusted market leader in the provision of quality archaeological and heritage services, has agreed to assist with the archaeological salvage and recovery of the samples, and the National Maritime Museum Cornwall at Falmouth has expressed an interest in housing the historic pieces in their collection, welcoming the public to visit them once the operation is complete.

The team is therefore due to embark on Phase Two of the expedition, employing advanced submarines and remotely operated underwater vehicles to further survey the area and undertake selective recovery of bottles. Cookson Adventures, which has pioneered the concept of world firsts in luxury adventure travel, is now offering the exclusive opportunity to be a part of this expedition.

As part of a team that includes experts in maritime history, marine operations, wine experts and documentary film makers, the client will be based at a private Cornish mansion in the maritime town of Falmouth for the seven-day excursion. The opportunity includes a private chef, who will pair meals with an exquisite collection of vintage wines, and helicopter transfers back and forth to the salvage vessel.

After two days of mapping and surveying, the team will begin salvage operations and, with the aid of leading wine experts, hope to test wines the moment bottles are salvaged, without damaging the corks. The project has the support of Coravin, a company which uses a transformational new technology that allows wine to be extracted from a bottle without uncorking it. Wine experts also predict the environmental conditions – which will have kept the cargo away from natural light, whilst maintaining a constant and cool storage temperature – will have kept the wine drinkable for its return to the surface.

Adam Sebba, CEO of Cookson Adventures, said: “We don’t consider ourselves a luxury travel company or an adventure travel company – we like to do things differently. That’s why this is precisely the type of unique experience we like to build for our clients. It’s a one-of-a-kind opportunity to be a part of one of the most significant historical discoveries of the century. The rarity of such a cargo is unprecedented and we’re waiting with baited breath to dive and see if we can recover the wine. The dive will be challenging but, by working with a team of leading experts in a number of specialist fields, we are confident that we can extract the prized artefacts intact.”

For more information contact Cookson Adventures through its website or on: info@cooksonadventures.com.