Experts Say This 1,700-Year-Old Bottle of Wine Is Probably Still Drinkable

Can you drink it? Maybe. Will you want to? Probably not.

<p>Alamy Stock Photo</p>

Alamy Stock Photo

Visitors to the Historical Museum of the Palatinate in the southwest German city of Speyer can see and do a lot. They can travel back to the Middle Ages to learn the history of the Habsburg dynasty, eyeball a jewel-studded golden chalice that belonged to an 18th-century bishop, or, perhaps most interesting of all, wonder whether they could (or would) take a sip from an almost 1,700-year-old bottle of wine

One of the museum's most impressive pieces is the "Speyer wine bottle," which is believed to be the world's oldest bottle of wine. The museum dates the bottle to around 325 C.E. There's even a romantic story behind it. Sometime in the 4th century, a pair of upper-class Romans were buried together near modern-day Speyer, and over a dozen booze-filled bottles were interred with them. Their gravesite was discovered in 1867, and unlike the other bottles that were meant to keep the couple buzzing into the afterlife, this one was still intact and completely sealed. 

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According to the museum, ancient Romans "seasoned and sweetened their wine with spices and honey" and poured olive oil into the bottle to keep air out. That now-solidified blob of oil — and a thin layer of wax over the mouth of the bottle— have kept the wine safely sealed inside ever since. 


In 2011, The Local reported, the bottle had been kept "in the exact same spot" in the museum for over 100 years. The museum's head of collection, Ludger Tekampe, told the outlet that he was the only staff member who had ever handled the bottle — and he acknowledged that it was "strange" to touch it. On top of the historical importance of keeping the wine sealed, no one really knows what would happen if someone uncorked it. 

"We are not sure whether or not it could stand the shock [of] the air," Tekampe said. "It is still liquid, and there are some who believe it should be subjected to new scientific analysis, but we are not sure." 

But could you drink it if you really wanted? According to Futurism, most of what can be seen inside the bottle is a "firm, rosin-like mixture," and any liquid that remains isn't exactly wine anymore, as it has lost all of its alcohol content. Still, wine professor Monika Christmann told the outlet that the sip or two of liquid left "is probably not spoiled," but it "would not bring joy to the palate." 

In an Instagram post about the bottle, the Museum wrote that the taste "would probably be compared to that of a tasteless chewing gum," which doesn't sound terrible but also doesn't inspire confidence either. 

If you find yourself in Speyer, you can see the bottle in the Historical Museum of the Palatinate's Wine Museum. Admission to the Wine Museum is free, which means you'll have a few extra Euros to spend on, say, a non-ancient bottle of Gewürztraminer.