Ever wondered which are the oldest wines in the world? In fact, there are a number of extremely old wines, mostly kept in museums and private collections.
From ancient Roman legacies to contemporary auction blockbusters, each bottle narrates a story as intricate as the flavors it cradles.
Today, we will discuss all of them and find out which is the oldest wine in the world. Did they get better with age?
Table of Contents
325-350 AD Speyer Wine Bottle
The Speyer Wine Bottle holds the distinction of being the oldest wine bottle ever discovered, dating back to the period between 325 A.D and 350 A.D. Currently on display in the Wine Museum section of the Pfalz Historical Museum, the oldest bottle in the world is a 51 fluid ounce yellow-green bottle with an amphora-like shape.
The preservation of the oldest wine bottle is attributed to the thick layer of wax and olive oil that effectively shielded the wine and herb mixture from the deleterious effects of air. This ancient bottle remains unopened under the olive oil anx wax, and has preserved its contents remarkably well.
The journey of the Speyer wine bottle through time began in 1867 when it was unearthed during the excavation of two tombs near the city of Speyer—one belonging to a wealthy Roman nobleman and the other to a Roman noblewoman. Out of the 16 oldest wine bottles discovered in these tombs, the Speyer Bottle stands as the sole survivor, escaping the fate of being either empty or shattered.
1774 Vercel “Vin Jaune d’Arbois”
In May 2018, the 1774 Vercel “Vin Jaune d’Arbois” was sold at a Christie’s auction for $120,800. This special yellow wine, made by 18th-century winemaker Anatoile Vercel, comes from Savagnin grapes and represents the excellent winemaking of Jura.
The three 870 ml bottles were stored for over 200 years by Vercel’s descendants in a cellar in Arbois, the capital of the Jura wine region in France. In 1994, a tasting panel rated the wine 9.4 out of 10, noting flavors like walnuts, spices, curry, cinnamon, vanilla, and dried fruits.
1796 Lenox Madeira
During a six-month refurbishment, workers found nearly three cases of Madeira wine from 1796 in the wine cellar of Liberty Hall Museum. The restoration uncovered the original brick flooring, previously hidden under concrete, and removed an extra wall, probably built during Prohibition.
In September 2017, when Christie’s specialists first examined the collection, they were amazed by the rarity of the bottles in the cellar. The discovery included Madeira bottles with handwritten labels from 1820 and the great 1808 vintage in one corner. Notably, they also found large hand-blown glass bottles of Robert Lenox from 1796.
Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1787
Shrouded in mystery and bearing the initials “Th. J.,” the Chateau Lafite Rothschild 1787 was initially linked to Thomas Jefferson.
Rediscovered in a Paris cellar, it fetched $156,450 at Christie’s of London in 1985, adding an enigmatic chapter to its illustrious history.
Chateau Margaux 1787
Not all tales end in triumph. The Chateau Margaux 1787, also adorned with Thomas Jefferson’s initials, met a tragic fate when a waiter accidentally knocked it over.
Despite the mishap, insurers compensated $225,000, etching its name as the most expensive bottle never sold.
1945 Jeroboam of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild
Jeroboam of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild 1945 is a renowned wine from Nathaniel Rothschild’s vineyards. The 1945 vintage is considered among the best of the last century.
The label, featuring a ‘V,’ symbolizes the victory of the allied forces in World War II. The wine offers elegant blackberry and oak flavors, accompanied by a rich nose of mint, vanilla, and baking spices.
Cheval Blanc 1947
Renowned as Bordeaux’s best, the Cheval Blanc 1947 sold for $304,375 at a Christie’s auction in Geneva in 2010.
Capturing the essence of the exceptional weather in 1947, this vintage presents a dense structure and an elegant blend of plum and blackberry flavors.
Chateau Lafite 1869
In a surprising twist at a Sotheby’s auction in Hong Kong, three bottles of Chateau Lafite 1869, initially estimated at $8,000 each, soared to an astonishing $230,000 each in 2010.
An anonymous Asian wine enthusiast secured these sought-after expensive bottles.
Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Grand Cru 1945
At the zenith of opulence, the Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Grand Cru 1945 reigns supreme. Crowned as the most expensive bottle ever sold, fetching $558,000 in 2018, this aged wine symbolizes the pinnacle of Burgundy winemaking with its ‘unicorn vintage’ rarity.
Romanee-Conti emerges from the exclusive vineyard bearing its name in the heart of Burgundy’s Cote d’Or. Spanning a mere 4.47 acres, this vineyard is dedicated to nurturing Pinot Noir grapes. The limited size, coupled with the deliberate cultivation of low-yield, top-tier grapes, gives rise to expensive wines perpetually sought after by connoisseurs.
Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon 1992
In 2000, the sophisticated Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon 1992 garnered an impressive $500,000 at a charity wine auction held in Napa Valley, California.
Distinguished by its opulent opaque purple hue, this Napa Cabernet unfolds a delightful blackberry flavor, accompanied by enticing aromas of toasty oak, vanilla, and mint. Notably, this wine is bottled without fining and filtering, undergoing maturation in 60% new oak.
This is a 300-year-old Hungarian Tokaji wine bottle from the Royal Saxon cellar of Augustus the Strong, also known as Augustus II. His love for grand celebrations and the finest wines is reflected in this Tokaji wine, often referred to as the “Wine of Kings,” stored in the cellars of his Dresden Royal Palace.
Crafted between 1650 and 1690, this extraordinary bottle of sweet wine features a seal with crossed swords. It stands as a testament to the historical significance of Tokaji wine in the Saxon court.
Each of these bottles tells us about a different chapter in history, making them all the more precious.
And while we won’t get to taste them (and many of them are probably not even drinkable anymore), it’s certainly nice to know they exist.
It adds yet another layer to the already fascinating world of wine. So, while we may not have the privilege of sipping from the world’s oldest bottle of wine, we can still relish in the simple joy it brings.
- Do You Refrigerate Wine? (White & Red) - December 5, 2023
- Why Is Your Wine Fridge Not Turning On – Compressor Issues? - December 5, 2023
- Pinot Grigio Food Pairing Guide – Appetizers & Main Courses - December 4, 2023