The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Wine Bottles

Posted on | October 13, 2010 | Written by Francesco Vigorito | No Comments

Wine bottles come in all sorts of sizes and shapes, and often those shapes and sizes aren’t random.  Rather, the shape of the bottle usually communicates the region of the wine and the grape varieties used, something that’s particularly true about French wine.  All bottles have three parts: the neck, shoulder and punt.  The neck probably doesn’t need an explanation; the shoulders are the part below the neck; and the punt is the bottom underside of the bottle.

This is one of the most common bottle shapes, the “Bordeaux” style, which is also used a lot in America and in Italy. In Bordeaux, France, these bottles denote the use of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec, though white wines made from Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle also employ this shape.  Bordeaux wines are usually long-lived, which is why the shape came into being. After long periods of cellaring, these wines produce a lot of sediment.  The steepness and height of the shoulders help to catch the sediment when the wine is poured, and the flat sides also allow the wines to stack and cellar comfortably.

This shape with a slightly wider base, sturdier frame, and gently sloping shoulders hails from Burgundy.  Bottles like this are filled with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  This bottle shape doesn’t have sharp edges, so it looks graceful and seems to have a feminine quality.  Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines are very elegant and round, yet can still deliver a full body and an intense depth of flavor, making them a great match for this bottle. It’s almost as if the bottle personifies the wine within.

This bottle is easily recognizable as being for Champagne and other classic method sparklers.  The punt has a concave base at the bottom of the bottle.   The pressure in Champagne bottles is between 70 and 90 pounds per square inch—about 2-3 times the pressure in your car’s tires and about equal to the pressure in the tires of a double-decker bus! Therefore, Champagne bottles use the thickest glass and have the largest punts.  The punt adds much needed strength to the bottle, which is also why some bottles have bigger punts than others.  This picture also shows the range of sizes for Champagne and other wine bottles.  The second one from the left is the standard .750mL.

The last classic example of a wine bottle shape comes from Alsace, France and parts of Germany and Austria. There is a wide variety of wines that use this bottle, and all of them are white, though they can range from totally dry to totally sweet. Pinot Gris, Riesling, Gewürztraminer (GWT), Muscat, and Pinot Blanc are some of the common varieties found in this bottle.  This somewhat sexier shape is longer with almost flat shoulders and a smaller punt.  This shape reminds me of a tall girl with gentle curves and an essence of classiness.

Probably one of the most interestingly shaped bottles is the Bocksbeutel from Franconi, Germany.  This almost resembles a Cognac bottle, and this unusual shape was developed in order to keep bottles from rolling around during field work.  “Beutel” in German means “container,” and the name comes from a sack used to carry books.  Apparently, the shape of the bottle resembles a goat’s southerly region, take from that what you will.  To each his, her or a goatherd’s own—wine bottles, almost as much as the wine they hold, are a matter of taste.

Photo Credits: Pic 3, Pic 4, pic 5


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