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Ancient Steinwein

Wine writer Hugh Johnson profiles a 1540 Steinwein. Johnson was one of a tiny group of people gathered in 1961 to share one of the oldest bottles of wine to have ever been drunk.

Wine has been made by most civilisations throughout history, and in every part of the world. It has inspired artists, thinkers, writers, theologians and poets through the ages, and is deeply connected with the story of recorded human history. In this series, five wine critics offer personal reflections on the personal, political, and historical stories of bygone bottles.

In today's episode, the world's best-selling wine writer Hugh Johnson profiles a 1540 Steinwein. Hugh was one of a tiny group of people who gathered in 1961 to share the oldest bottle of wine to have ever been drunk. The wine itself was produced while Michelangelo was still at work in Rome, King Henry VIII had just married his fifth wife, and before Shakespeare had even been born.

Hugh will discover that there are several reasons why the world's oldest bottle of wine is German - the main one being that the early 16th centuries saw a brief interlude in a mini ice age that would cool European climates until the mid 19th century.

Alongside the bottle's natural and social history, he delves into the taste of the wine, saying, "Nothing has ever demonstrated to me so clearly that wine is indeed a living organism, and that this brown, Madeira-liked fluid still held the active principles of the life that had been conceived in it by the sun of that distant summer."

An SPG production for BBC Radio 4.

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11 minutes

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