For the last hundred years, Germanyâ€™s Historical Museum of the Palatinate has housed the worldâ€™s oldest unopened bottle of wine. But a century is nothing to the Speyer wine bottle, also known as the RÃ¶merwein aus Speyer. Its murky contents have sat undisturbed inside clear glass for 1,693 years.
The 1.5 liter bottle has handles shaped like dolphins and was buried in the tomb of a Roman nobleman and noblewoman near todayâ€™s city of Speyer. Researchers estimate that it dates to around 325 C.E. When the tomb was excavated in 1867, other wine bottles were found, long since shattered or empty. In earlier eras, Romans cremated the dead. But by the time of the Speyer bottle, Romans laid corpses to rest in sarcophagi with grave goods, which included everyday items, including wine.
The wine inside the Speyer bottle was likely made from local grapes that were planted during Roman rule. Unknown herbs were added as well, perhaps as flavoring or as a preservative. The residue inside, however, is no longer truly wine. Instead, it consists of a solid, dark mass and a milky liquid. Even the survival of that residue is unprecedented. An unusually well-made bottle that stayed airtight over the millennia, a wax seal, and a thick layer of olive oil preserved its contents from totally evaporating. In fact, more oil than wine was poured into the bottle, creating the dense, solid layer visible through the glass.
07 Mar 2018