World’s oldest liquid wine found in 2,000-year-old Roman tomb in Spain

The reddish-brown, sherry-like wine was found in an unlooted tomb and confirmed to be a local variety by the University of Córdoba.

They say wine improves with age... But what if the wine in question is over 2,000 years old?

The Speyer wine bottle, dated between AD 325 and 350. Credit: Carole Raddato

In 2019, while a family was renovating their home in the Andalusian city of Carmona, they unexpectedly discovered a remarkably preserved Roman necropolis beneath their property.

Inside the ancient tomb held what is now recognised as the world’s oldest preserved wine, still in liquid form. The wine, which was once white but has since turned a reddish-brown hue over the centuries, was found inside a glass urn along with cremated human remains.

The entrance to the tomb, which was uncovered by a Spanish family while they were carrying out renovations on their home.Credit: Juan Manuel Román

Tests by scientists at the University of Córdoba found that the liquid had originally been a local sherry-like variety.

Inside the tomb, which contains eight burial nichesCredit: Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports/ Juan Manuel Román

According to a recently published study in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, the tomb dates back to the first half of the first century C.E and features eight burial niches carved into its walls.

Six of these niches contained urns made of glass, lead, limestone, or sandstone, each holding human remains. Two urns were inscribed with names: Senicio and Hispanae.

The wine was discovered in another glass urn. Submerged in nearly five litres of the reddish liquid were the cremated bones of a man, as well as a gold ring.

Experts were able to identify that the liquid was in fact wine after analysing its chemical composition. The absence of syringic acid, a decomposition byproduct of red wine, led them to conclude that it was made from white grapes specifically.

Before this discovery, the oldest known wine preserved in a liquid state was the Speyer wine bottle, unearthed from a Roman tomb near the German city of Speyer in 1867.

The bottle, dated between AD 325 and 350, is the oldest unopened wine bottle known to exist. Since its discovery, it has been exhibited at the Wine Museum section of the Historical Museum of the Palatinate in Speyer.

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