Charles Hackett's 70-year-old bottle of Dom Perignon was born when the world was at war. French vintners continued to care for their vineyards when they could, oftentimes without the help of workers dispatched to the front lines, horses requisitioned into duty and winemaking chemicals and additives redirected for war use.
Stories are retold about champagne owners building false walls in their cellars to hide their pricey inventory. Their enemies, it is said, didn't venture into the miles-long, subterranean tunnels because they were afraid they'd get lost or be clunked on the head with a bottle. Still, uncountable bottles were taken.
The first vintage of Dom Perignon from grapes harvested in 1921 sailed to New York on the liner Normandie in 1936 after Prohibition. Three of those bottles from billionaire James Buchanan Duke's original case sold at Christie's Auction House for $24,675 in 2004.
In the early 1950s, when Hackett's 1943 bottle was released, it was imported by Schieffelin & Co. of New York, a company that evolved from being an 18th-century drug distributor to Schieffelin & Somerset Co., a top importer of premium wines and spirits.
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