The Pfalz Historical Museum in Germany houses this ancient bottle of wine.
The Pfalz Historical Museum in Germany houses this ancient bottle of wine.

This beauty is believed to be the oldest bottle of wine in the world. It was unearthed in 1867, when individuals were excavating a grave of a Roman nobleman and noblewoman who were buried near (what is now) the German city of Speyer. Amazingly, the drink dates back to approximately 325 CE, making the bottle some 1,680 years old. That’s a staggering 613,000 days.

The bottle shown here was just one of several bottles that were located in the sarcophagus (16 in all); however, this was the only bottle that was still intact. It is a 1.5-litre (51 US fl oz) vessel, which was meant to accompany the couple on their journey into the afterlife.

Individuals often say that fine wines age well; however, if the saying is true, either this wine is not “fine,” or the saying does not apply to bottles that are nearly two millennia old. Scientific analyses have revealed that part of the liquid that is contained in the bottle was once wine, but emphasis should be placed on the once.

In ancient times, individuals often poured olive oil into bottles of wine in an attempt to seal the drink from outside air and, thus, preserve the wine. This may have worked for some years, but the method cannot stand against centuries of aging. Consequently, in its present state, the bottle houses the residue of a clear liquid that is (sadly) no longer alcohol.  It has lost all of its ethanol content.

Above this liquid, filling nearly two thirds of the bottle, there is a firm rosin-like mixture.

Ultimately, researchers claims that the olive oil is what allowed the wine to survive to the present day. Because the oil was so thick in this bottle, it managed to save the tiny amount of liquid that we see left today. Moreover, 1,650-year-old bottle was able to make it this far partially because it was sealed with wax, as opposed to a modern cork, which would have rotted long ago. The fact that the glass did not break is a bit surprising, as Roman glass is not known for its tenacity.

Researchers believe that the bottle was produced in the area surrounding (what is now) modern Germany sometime during 4th century BCE (it has been dated to 325 and 350 CE). Unsurprisingly, it has had quite a history. After its burial with the Roman nobleman, and its subsequent discovery in the mid 1800s, the bottle traveled about and was even analyzed by the Kaiser’s chemists during the First World War.

This vintage 352 CE vintage has been on display at the Pfalz Historical Museum for more than a century, and for quite some time, scientists have been debating whether they should crack open the bottle. However, the museum’s wine department curator, Ludger Tekampe, stated that the contents would likely not survive the ordeal as a result of the extreme age. In his statement, he asserted, “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. I have personally held the bottle twice in my hand during renovations. That was an amazing feeling.”

At present time, the bottle remains unopened and on display. Considering that it has been around for so long, there is no rush to reach a decision, as it is unlikely to undergo a dramatic shift in a short time. Indeed, Tekampe states that the bottle’s contents have not altered for the last 25 years.

Wine professor Monika Christmann said: “Micro-biologically it is probably not spoiled, but [as you can tell based on its appearance] it would not bring joy to the palate.”