World's oldest wine uncorked
- Monday 25 September 2000
The amphora was found by divers searching an ancient shipwreck off the Sicilian coast. It was intact on the seabed roughly 20 metres from the surface, northeast of the lighthouse of San Vito Lo Capo
With its narrow neck, two handles and chunky body, the three-litre ceramic vessel, known as a truncated cone amphora, is believed to be of Arabian origin dating from the 12th century. It was opened in a sterile chamber, a scalpel being used to cut through the original wooden seal.
The three litres of liquid, quite possibly a strong, sweet wine made from muscat or malvasia grapes, were extracted and put into separate glass phials for analysis, rather than tasting. The liquid was initially almost transparent as it was poured and then changed to a deep, yellow colour.
Given that there was a flourishing wine trade on the northern shores of the Mediterranean in the early middle ages, the chances are that the amphora contained wine of middle eastern origin bound for northern Europe or possibly England.
Analysis of the liquid and the design of the amphora is likely to shed important light on the history of medieval viticulture and the wine trade. The project, jointly organised by Giuseppe Vesco of Cantine Rallo and the Sicilian Divers Institute, is being overseen by Professor Sebastiano Tusa of the Superintendency for Archaeology in Trapani.