The World's Oldest Bottle Of Wine: Getting Better With Age?


Bosca cellar wine cathedral in Canelli. (Renato Valterza/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

As the old saying goes, wine gets better with age. If that's true, the Speyer wine bottle, the world's oldest bottle of wine, should be superb. Sadly, we'll never know. The bottle must remain unopened to preserve its fragile contents.

Speyer wine bottle. (Immanuel Giel/Wikimedia Commons)

The Speyer Wine Bottle

The Speyer wine bottle was unearthed in 1867 when archaeologists excavated a Roman tomb near Speyer, Germany. The bottle is made of a yellowish green glass, which was fashioned with two dolphin-shaped handles on either side, sealed with wax, and then coated with a thick layer of olive oil. The liquid inside the bottle is clearly visible, but some of the wine has glommed together into a dark mass. It also appears that some herbs were added to the wine. Experts speculate that the herbs may have been used as a preservative, but they may have also been meant to enhance the flavor of the wine. Archaeologists have dated other objects in the tomb to around 325 C.E., meaning the wine is around 1,697 years old. It's currently in the possession of the Wine Museum in Germany's Historical Museum of the Palatinate.

Historical Museum of the Palatinate. (Dontworry/Wikimedia Commons)

(Not) Cracking It Open

Many experts have examined the Speyer wine bottle and concluded that even extracting a sample would be impossible without compromising the wine, and it certainly shouldn't be opened, since no one can predict how its contents will react to air. The museum's curator and staff resist even moving the extremely fragile bottle for fear of breaking it or disturbing its contents. It's probably just as well. Since the bottle is sealed, the wine inside is most likely still safe to drink, but it's probably lost its alcohol content, so it wouldn't give you a buzz. That dark, gelatinous mass is probably not very appetizing, either.