Can you imagine something that has survived fires, two world wars and half a millennia of time?
Such instances are a rare feat in this world. A few heritage monuments spring to mind fitting the criteria. It was rather a surprise for me to know that there is a barrel of wine that has been preserved for more than 500 years!
The wine in question is a white wine made from Alsace grapes cultivated in the Alsace region of France, which shares its borders with Germany. This wine is the oldest wine that is kept in a barrel. The wine was harvested in 1472 and is being kept in the historic Hospices de Strasbourg since then. The wine was stored in the cellars of the hospital to treat the patients in the hospital. With the advancement of technology and science, there was no requirement for the wine stored in the cellar to be used. This is one of the reasons why the wine was not used for a very long period of time.
The hospital which was on top of the cellar in which the wine is stored burned down. But the cellar was intact and the vintage wine was unscathed by the fire. The barrel of wine survived the turbulence of the French Revolution, World War I, World War II, and today it is still safe in the barrel as it was for the past 547 years. The hospital and the underground cellar was in shambolic condition since the French revolution. The restoration of the cellar was done in 1944. Since then the cellar and the hospital are maintained and cared for by respective authorities. Another massive renovation to the cellar was done in 1994 to gain the visual and qualitative cues to have the glory that befits a cellar preserving wine that is older than half a millennia.
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This definitely doesn’t mean that the wine was stored in the same barrel since 1472. As the barrels are made out of wood the barrel was replaced three times since 1472. The last time the barrel was replaced was in 2015. Around mid-2014 small leaks were observed in the barrel which prompted to make a new barrel to preserve the wine. The new 450-liter barrel made out of oak wood was handcrafted by two respected French coopers Xavier Gouraud and Jean-Marie Blanchard. The wine was transferred from the old barrel to the new one with extreme care. The barrel was changed only two times, in the 500+ year history of the wine, before 2015.
The luck needed to have tasted the vintage wine is immense. Since 1472 the wine was tasted only thrice. The first time the wine was tasted was in 1576. The wine was served in honor of a delegation from Switzerland to the hospital.
The next time the wine was tasted is almost one and a half centuries later. It was tested in 1716 right after the hospital was burned down. It is quite characteristic of the French!
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The third and final time the vintage wine was tasted was in 1944. In that year, General Leclerc was the last person to have tasted the wine. The occasion for serving the wine was the liberation of Strasbourg that year. A truly remarkable occasion to open a vintage Alsace white wine which shoulders a history of more than 500 years.
No one has dared to ascertain the value of the wine in the new 450-liter oak barrel. I have wondered whether I would ever be able to drink this historic wine. I think of what I will have to give in exchange to taste this vintage wine. The price to be paid would be exorbitant as tasting this Alsace white wine from 1472 is equivalent to tasting history itself. And that is priceless.
Thank you for reading with us today! Be sure to check out related articles to keep your wine interests nice and high with “Loire Valley is a Must Visit For Every Wine Lover” or even “The Main Differences Between Sparkling Wine and Champagne“.
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