The Speyer wine bottle is the oldest known wine bottle in the world. Dated to 325 – 359 AD, the ancient wine has remained sealed in its bottle for nearly 1,700 years. Despite the fact that it would no longer be alcoholic and it is unlikely to be very palatable, researchers say it is still drinkable!
The 1.5 litre bottle of ancient wine was discovered in the tomb of a Roman noble couple near the city of Speyer in Germany in 1867. The bottle was one of 16 found in the tomb, but the only one that still contained wine. It had remained preserved thanks to a wax seal and a large amount of olive oil.
Scientists believe the wine was made using a blend of local grapes, herbs, and olive oil. But it now looks like a very unappealing sludge with a resin-like mass and cloudy liquid and it has lost all of its ethanol content. Nevertheless, researchers have said it is probably safe to drink! Wine expert Monika Christmann said, “Microbiologically it is probably not spoiled, but it would not bring joy to the palate.”
The Speyer wine bottle and its contents ( Immanuel Giel / CC by SA 3.0 )
Although it was analyzed by a chemist in the early 20 th century, the bottle has never been opened. Contemporary historians have been debating for years whether they should unseal the Speyer wine bottle to examine its contents.
Museum curators from the Pfalz Historical Museum in Germany, where it is housed, have argued that it should be kept sealed to avoid disturbing the miraculously preserved liquid, and microbiologists insist that opening the bottle could be dangerous.
The museum’s wine department curator Ludger Tekampe stated a few years ago “We are not sure whether or not it could stand the shock to the air. It is still liquid and there are some who believe it should be subjected to new scientific analysis but we are not sure” [via The Daily Mail].
So, rephrasing William Shakespeare, we wonder: to open or not to open? It looks like this dilemma will continue “torturing” wine experts and scientists for many years to come.
Top image: The Speyer wine bottle ( Carole Raddato / CC by SA 2.0 )
By Theodoros Karasavvas