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Museum scared to open ancient Roman wine
Photo: DPA

Museum scared to open ancient Roman wine

Published: 09 Dec 2011 11:55 GMT+01:00
Updated: 09 Dec 2011 11:55 GMT+01:00

Scientists want to study samples of the world’s oldest wine, currently on display at the Historical Museum of the Palatinate in the western German city of Speyer. There’s just one problem: everyone’s afraid to open the bottle.

The glass bottle, thought to be at least 1,650 years old, was found in a Roman grave near Speyer in 1867 and put on display at the museum. Since then, it’s been handled extremely carefully, and been on display in the exact same spot in the museum for 100 years.

Museum directors fear that a moment's carelessness could shatter the bottle, destroying its priceless content. Though scientists would like to test it to figure out exactly how old the wine is and where it comes from, as well as perhaps seeing how it tastes – cracking it open is out of the question.

“It’s not clear what would happen if air gets into the wine,” said Ludger Tekampe, who heads the department responsible for storing it.

There’s also the danger that, after all this time, it could have become poisonous, although scientists suspect the alcohol would not be dangerous, but just taste disgusting.

In any event, the ultra-old wine has survived a lot, including ancient drinkers, handling on its way to the museum, and two world wars, with nary a problem.

Tekampe said he hasn’t observed any changes in the wine or its container in his 25 years at the museum, the bottle appears to have been carefully constructed by the Romans to prevent the wine from decomposing.

“The content is remarkably stable,” Tekampe said.

Still he’s the only one who handles the bottle. Everyone else is just too afraid.

“I held the bottle in my hand twice during renovations. It was a strange feeling,” Tekampe said.

The Local/DPA/mdm

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

13:07 December 9, 2011 by Jeffvm
So is it sealed closed with glass then?
14:52 December 9, 2011 by Frenemy
I pity the fool who takes a drink of that muck...
15:39 December 9, 2011 by danamcmahon
What they need is a machine like there is on the planet mars studing the surface for clues. But dont let the CIA silly story you and say can we borrow it to study, cause if is more poisonous,and they break it open, and it kills most of them, they will start another war with you. Remember the frankenstien story.
18:59 December 9, 2011 by Englishted
Is this the stuff sold at the Berlin Christmas market ?.
19:28 December 9, 2011 by koli
What if it not wine? See, the Romans also used bottles to pee so...
19:50 December 9, 2011 by Kris Koln
It Lokks disgusting , In any restuarant , i would reject this .
20:22 December 9, 2011 by nedmesis
Italy's oldest food fraud.
20:49 December 9, 2011 by Loth
First its wine, then it turns to vinegar after time, then it turns to this globby looking stuff? Is it dead bacteria?
00:20 December 10, 2011 by cmorris
Why are they so scared. With technology the way it is, they should be able to extract some wine from the bottle somehow. Open it in a bowl, so if it breaks, the wine stays in the bowl. Sounds to me they really do not want to open the bottle.
15:08 December 10, 2011 by bugger
1st applicant here!

I am willing to test it!
00:36 December 21, 2011 by Drbio
I do not understand why a small sample is not removed using a syringe while maintaining its integrity?
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