The Oldest Wine Bottle And Cellar In The World

According to the Guinness world record for the underground winery, the most extensive underground operating cellar in the world is at Mileștii Mici in the Chinisau region of The Republic of Moldova. The cellar is over 200 km long, out of which only 55km is currently used. The cellar holds over 2 million bottles of wines with the oldest vintages starting in 1969. While the largest underground wine cellar continues to age quality wines from around the globe, most people find it difficult to believe that the oldest wine bottle is not from here. The oldest wine bottle was actually recovered from a tomb in modern-day Germany. The bottle is around 1.5 liters and believed to have been produced around 325CE. The wine was found in 1867 during an excavation of a tomb from the Ancient Roman era located near the German city of Speyer.[1]

Did You Know: The Mileștii Mici cave is large enough for cars to drive.

The bottle is popularly known as the Speyer Wine Bottle and Römerwein. The taste of this wine is still a topic of research, and many experts have diverse opinions and ambiguities about the quality of the wine. However, we may never find out about the wine because it’s sealed and there are currently no plans to open the bottle. Wine experts are not sure what will happen to the contents of the bottle when it is opened and exposed to air; as such, they believe it is best to let it remain sealed the way it was found — with a stopper that is made from olive oil and wax.

This iconic wine bottle is now showcased in the Palatinate Museum in Germany for everyone to see. Some wine lovers describe the Speyer wine as the vintage of vintage wines.

An Extreme Aging Period

Generally aging can improve the quality, taste, and flavor of many wines. This explains why older vintage wines carry higher price tags than their younger counterparts. However, it doesn’t seem to be the case with the Speyer Wine Bottle.

Having spent over 1690 years on God’s green earth, researchers and scientists believe that alcohol in the bottle has almost vanished. But results from the scientific analysis suggest that the bottle’s content do have some traces of wine.

Going Back In Time

During the time period of the Speyer Wine Bottle, olive oil was added to the top of the wine bottles. This was done to preserve the wine by preventing air from entering the bottle.[2]

This method of wine preservation might have worked at the time, but it was never meant to preserve the wine for over a millennium. It is believed that the bottle today contains a clear liquid that has almost lost all of its alcohol content — this translates to zero ethanol. In addition to that, two-thirds of the bottle is filled with a firm, cloudy mixture.

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Many researchers argue that the olive oil is the reason why the wine survived for so many years — because of the thick olive layer that is formed over the liquid inside the bottle. Another reason is the durability of the cork. The winemakers of the bottle used a cork made from wax instead of conventional corks that would have degraded or rotted. What is surprising for many researchers is how the glass bottle remained intact (unbroken).

The Oldest Wine Cellar In The World

From the most prominent underground cellar in the world in Moldova to the world’s oldest wine bottle in Germany, the journey to the oldest wine cellar in the world leads to Nahariya in Northern Israel. According to archaeological findings, the cellar can be traced to 1700BC. Archaeologist believes that a banquet hall – close to a Canaanite palace- was used as a cellar.[3]

The pottery extracted from the site includes over 40 ceramic jars with a combined capacity of 13 gallons. Chemical analysis performed on the jars show that they once stored primo wine. This kind of wine was usually blended with cinnamon, mint, tree resins, and honey. Evidence from the cellar/storeroom site shows that the banquet hall was destroyed by a natural disaster in 1600BC — maybe an earthquake.

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This Day in Wine History

1867: The oldest wine bottle dating back to 325 AD was found in the tomb of a Roman nobleman in Germany. It is currently on display in the German history museum in Speyer.

August 2005: Mileștii Mici, the most extensive underground cellar globally, won the Guinness world record for the wine cellar with the most number of wine bottles. 

Want to read more? Try these books!

The Perfect Wine Cellar- The Ultimate Guide for Great Wine Collectors A history of wine;- Great vintage wines from the Homeric age to the present day





References:

  1. “Scienceshot: World’s Oldest Wine Cellar?”. 2022. Science.Org. https://www.science.org/content/article/scienceshot-worlds-oldest-wine-cellar#:~:text=Archaeologists%20excavating%20a%203700%2Dyear,about%2050%20liters%20of%20liquid.
  2. 2022. https://futurism.com/meet-the-worlds-oldest-bottle-of-wine-2.
  3. 2022. https://theworld.org/stories/2013-11-22/worlds-oldest-wine-cellar-unearthed-israel.

Photo Attribution

Immanuel Giel, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons