The Heidelberg Tun: The world's largest wine barrel.

The Heidelberg Tun Was Once a Repository for Tax Wine 

The Heidelberg Tun Was Once a Repository for Tax Wine 

Atlas Obscura
Your Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders
March 26 2015 9:15 AM

From Taxes to Ax Marks: The Story Behind the World’s Largest Wine Cask

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Bringing new meaning to the term "drinking a ton," Heidelberg Castle's almost comically huge wine cask, known as the Heidelberg Tun, is a massive, one-of-a-kind booze barrel that has been inspiring dreams of world-shattering drunkenness for hundreds of years despite being empty for most of its life.

Built in 1751, the giant wooden barrel was the third such titanic wine holder to be constructed in the area but is the only one to remain. While it may seem as though it was designed to be a novelty, the tun served a much more mundane purpose. In the era when it was created, public taxes were paid in goods, and for an area that excelled in winemaking, that meant a lot of government vino. To hold all the donated drink, giant casks were created and all the tributes were collected into an undoubtedly vile slurry.


Even though the barrel acted as a tax coffer, it was empty most of the time. It still bears hatchet marks from when French soldiers who had taken the castle tried to break into the barrel for some disgusting victory drinks, but gave up when they realized that it was tapped.

Today the barrel continues to draw crowds, who come to see the monumental drunk tank. Things have changed over the years and the tun caters to its tourist visitors more than to its bureaucratic past, with a dance floor built on top and constant wine tastings. Even with the modern changes, the filigreed grandeur still looks like something out of a pirate's fantasy.

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Eric Grundhauser is a head writer and editor at Atlas Obscura. He lives in Brooklyn with his comic book collection. Follow him on Twitter.