It is still uncertain when and how the man discovered for the very first time the excitement of having a glass of wine. It is hypothesised that our hunter-gatherer ancestors used to eat wild grapes and by finding them pleasurable they gathered too many of them, unable to eat them all straight away. The fruits kept in their container released part of its juice which then started fermenting throughout the days; this way the mankind discovered the very first forms of wine.
Things started to change around the 10,000-8,000 BC when many populations turned from nomadic to sedentary thanks to the agriculture, which allowed the domestication of their lives. The first archeological testimonies of wine production were found in Georgia (6000 BC), Iran (7000 BC), Greece (4500 BC) and Armenia (c. 4100 BC), where it has been found the oldest winery ever until this day.
The oldest bottle of wine in the world was discovered inside a Roman tomb around the Speyer area, village of Rhineland, Germany. The bottle was then named after the city, “the Speyer Wine Bottle”.
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The Speyer Wine Bottle, which most likely contains wine, was found in 1867 during the excavation for the construction of a house in a vineyard near the village. The artifact dates back to the 325 – 350 AD; since its discovery it was exhibited in the Historical Museum of the Palatinate, in the permanent section dedicated to wine. It is a yellow glass-made bottle of a 1.5 l capacity, with dolphin – shaped handles.
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The bottle was found in a tomb of the 4th AD where a man and a woman were resting in two separate sarcophagi and he was probably a Roman legionnaire. The wine was most likely placed there to comfort the two people in their journey to the afterlife. 6 glass bottles were found inside the woman’ sarcophagus and 10 in the one of the man; amongst all of those only one still contained liquid within.
According to the analysis carried out after the WW2, the liquid inside the bottle could be wine, probably produced within the same region and diluted with a mixture of herbs for its conservation. In reality though what made the substance to preserve itself was the thick layer of olive oil on the top part and the stopper made of melted wax. Petronius (27-66 AD) in his Satyricon, talks about bottles sealed with gypsum with a similar technique. Unusual was instead the use of the glass bottles, too fragile to be reliable through time.
The scientists have considered since 2011 the idea of a further analysis of the contents but the bottle has so far being kept closed due to the fear of how the liquid might react if exposed to the air. The Museum curator, Ludger Tekampe, declared that he has seen no variation to the bottle in the last 25 years while the oenologist Monika Christmann from Hochschule Geisenheim University declared:
“Microbiologically speaking the wine is probably not spoiled. But certainly it would not be a delicacy to taste either”.