Time-travel. Wine. The first one is the dream of science-fiction films. Back to the Future, well we are now through that film future and still, my skateboard has wheels.

Wine. Can it be a vehicle for time travel?

Well, I never thought so, until a radio broadcast on BBC Radio 4, Hugh Johnson was talking about the time, in 1961, when he was invited to be part of a group tasting of a 1540 Steinwein.

As he clearly described the tasting of this wine, over 50 years ago, as clearly as if it was yesterday, it dawned on me time travel was possible; by wine.

Coming back in time

The grapes that produced that wine were picked 421 years prior to being tasted. At that tasting, everything that had happened in the year when the grapes grew, all the events and interactions that created the wine in the barrel and in the bottle, everything was passed onto the tasters. They tasted 1540.

Michelangelo was working in Rome, Henry VIII was King in England, Francis Drake was born and Parmigianino died.

1540, the year Europe had the best year ever for wine production. Especially in Germany. At the time the taste was for sweet wines, the sweeter the better.

Everything about that year was designed for sweet wine production, there were even reports of a second harvest as the vines didn’t go dormant.

It was all about sweet wine in 1540


Now there are claims to dispute this wines age due to topping up, and other wines claiming the oldest status, but that’s not quite the point for the time traveller.

When that bottle was tasted the drinkers were ‘transported’ to that summer.

Everything that occurred in 1540 vintage was passed on to them, in an instant.

All five senses were in direct contact to 1540. That has to be considered time travel.

To a lesser extent then we travel back in time when we open the bottle of wine to the year of its vintage. The older the wine the further we travel.

It could be done with long packaged food, but the possibility of corruption, and poisoning, would put off most people trying it, but wine? At very worst it will have died and be undrinkable.

Link to the past

The opening of a vintage bottle of wine is a link to the past, all five senses involved in the experience.

Hear the opening, smell the bouquet, see the liquid released, genie-like, feel the sensation in the mouth and savour the taste.

If all five sense are involved in experiencing something, then it’s real and if that experience is from the past, that’s time travel.

We have been transported back to the year of vintage and the wine has been flux-capacitor’d to the future.

Then as I mused my bubble got burst by someone pointing out that this ‘time-travel’ notion happened every time coal, or other fossil fuels is burned with the gasses being released from times even longer ago.

I had to admit that all five senses are involved……but….

Your trip capsule: the explosion of senses

Think about the wine traveling forward instead. Natural resources aren’t purposefully created by human hands.

The wine was created by human activity and deliberately packaged for transportation.

Some went to different places, but some went to different centuries. The bottle is the time machine for the wine. Sent forward in time by people of the past to be enjoyed by people of the future.

A message in a bottle. Sent to ‘us’ from ‘them’. That’s time travel in my opinion. The wine brings its message to another time and another place.

It had never before dawned on me before, the time-travel aspect of wine. I like the idea. There is no other way to get back there, and like a broken time machine, when the last bottle is gone the chance to travel back is gone forever too.

So, next time an old vintage bottle is opened, or less aged if you can’t handle huge journeys back in time, just think of it as a time-travelling experience as well as a wine tasting.


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