What Is the Oldest Bottle of Wine in the World? The Answer Might Surprise You!

August 22, 2017 3:07 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

As winery appraisers in Napa County, CA, being wine experts is not only part of our job—it’s our passion. We love everything about wine—the culture, the flavors and the history. In fact, we’re fascinated by the history of wine and of the wineries here in Napa Valley, which is why we wanted to share with you the answer to a very interesting question: What is the oldest bottle of wine in the world?

If you guessed the Rüdesheimer Apostelwein 1727, you’d be wrong. In fact, you’d be wrong by over a thousand years! The oldest bottle of wine in the world is the Speyer Wine Bottle, dated between 325 and 350 A.D., the oldest known unopened bottle of wine.

The Speyer Wine Bottle was discovered in 1867 when individuals were excavating the tomb of a Roman nobleman and noblewoman who were buried near what is now the German city of Speyer (hence the name). The tomb contained two sarcophagi, one of which held the Roman nobleman, and the other his wife. Buried along with the noble couple were provisions for their celestial journey, including 16 bottles of wine. The Speyer Wine Bottle, however, is the only one that stood the test of time unscathed.

So, how did this bottle and the wine inside it last all these years? According to scientists, olive oil was added to wine from this period during the bottling process to help seal the wine from the outside air. The Speyer Wine Bottle not only appears to have had a significant amount of olive oil inside it—more than what was typically used—but it also has a hot wax seal. Scientists believe that this winning combination is what has preserved the liquid inside the bottle for all these years. However, we must put an emphasis on the word “liquid” here. Today, the bottom of the bottle holds a clear liquid that has lost all its ethanol content, and above this liquid, filling nearly two thirds of the bottle, is a firm rosin-like mixture. It may be “wine,” but it is far from drinkable!

If you’re interested in seeing this famous bottle of wine for yourself, it is currently on display at the Pfalz Historical Museum in Speyer, Germany, where it has been now for over a century. But there’s no need to rush. According to the curator in charge of its care, the bottle and its contents have not altered since they have been on display in the museum.

To learn more about wine, wine country and local wine facts, read some of the other blogs posted on this site or stop in to our offices. As local winery appraisers in Napa County, CA, the team at County Appraisals Inc. is always excited to share our knowledge about wine and the rich winery history right here in Napa Valley. After all, we’re not just wine lovers—we’re winery estate experts. Get in touch with us today to learn more about the properties available in the area!

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