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Åland celebrates birthday, but champagne prices fizzle

The autonomous island province celebrated its 90th anniversary on Saturday. However an auction of vintage maritime bubbly did not go off quite as planned.

Diver with champagne bottle
Image: Anders Näsman, Erik Saanila & Jan-Ole Nordlin

Saturday's programme included the premiere of a historical play and a parade in the capital Mariehamn, which was dampened by rain.

Åland's legislature or lagting convened for the first time on June 9, 1922. This followed a decision by the League of Nations that it should be a demilitarised, autonomous province of Finland. It also declared that the islanders should be allowed to maintain their own culture and Swedish language, as well as drafting some of their own laws.

Bubbly goes flat

On the eve of the anniversary, bottles of champagne retrieved from a shipwreck were auctioned in Mariehamn, but failed to fetch the prices that had been expected.

Each bottle of Veuve Clicquot dating back around 200 years sold for around 15,000 euros -- about half of what they went for last summer.

The bottles were discovered about two years ago in the hulk of a ship that sank in the early nineteenth century. A court ruled that it is the property of the provincial government.

Last year's auction brought in 80,000 euros, while this year's raised 109,000 euros -- about half of the 200,000 euros that the auctioneers had expected.

Recovering the bottles cost about 213,000 euros, with the auctioning process costing nearly as much again. In other words, the bottles have only earned roughly half of the costs entailed so far.

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