Oldest Wine Bottle

The Speyer wine bottle is a bottle of liquid, most probably wine, originally found near Speyer, in Germany, in 1867, and has been called the world’s “oldest existing bottle of wine”. The bottle has been dated at 325 or 350 AD, and it is believed to be the oldest unopened bottle of wine in the world. Since its discovery, it has been exhibited at the Wine Museum within the Historical Museum of the Palatinate in Speyer, always in the same location in the museum. The “Römerwein” is situated in the museum’s Tower room. It is a 1.5-litre (51 US fl oz) glass vessel with amphora-like “shoulders”, yellow green in color with dolphin-shaped handles.

The same museum also houses “the oldest wine bottle in Germany that is still completely filled with wine”, found in 1913 and bearing vintage 1687 of the Steinauer vineyard near Naumburg.

The bottle was discovered during an excavation within a 4th-century AD Roman nobleman’s tomb. The tomb contained two sarcophagi, one holding the body of a man and one a woman. One source says the man was a Roman legionnaire and the wine was a provision for his celestial journey. Of the six glass bottles in the woman’s sarcophagus and the ten vessels in the man’s sarcophagus, only one still contained a liquid. There is a clear liquid in the bottom third, and a mixture similar to rosin above. While it has lost its ethanol content, analysis is consistent with at least part of the liquid having been wine.The wine, likely produced in the same region, was diluted with a mixture of herbs. The preservation of the wine is attributed to the large amount of thick olive oil, added to the bottle to seal the wine off from air, along with a hot wax seal.

While scientists have considered accessing the liquid to further analyze the content, as of 2011 the bottle remained unopened, because of concerns on how the liquid would react when exposed to air. The museum’s curator, Ludger Tekampe, has stated he has seen no variation in the bottle in the last 25 years. Oenology professor Monika Christmann of Hochschule Geisenheim University has said, “Micro-biologically it is probably not spoiled, but it would not bring joy to the palate.”

Petronius (c. 27–66 AD) in his Satyricon writes of plaster sealed bottles, and this one is analogous. The use of glass in the bottle was unusual, as typically Roman glass was too fragile to be dependable.