Wine Bottle Shapes
Wine Bottle Shapes
A little bottle knowledge can give you a bit of a clue as to what the contents might be, even without reading the label. Most drinkers are familiar with the tall, slender Germanic bottles, but many other wine regions also have a preference for a particular bottle shape. Here I give a brief run through of the common bottle shapes you might find.
Straight sides and tall shoulders, with dark green glass for the dry red wines of the region, lighter green for the dry whites and, for the sweet whites, clear glass. This bottle shape is widely used in the New World by winemakers bottling Bordeaux varieties, but it is also widely used in Italy and many other countries.
Here gently sloping shoulders suggests a wine from Burgundy, with both red and white wines in similar green glass. These are sturdy, heavy bottles, with a slightly fatter girth than other wine bottles - although you may only notice this if stacking them. This shape is also widely used throughout the New World for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Rhone: Similar in style to the Burgundy, but not so fat. In addition, some may bear a coat of arms on the neck, particularly Châteauneuf du Pape. The traditional Côtes du Rhône bottle is similar in shape, but with more angular sloping shoulders. New World Shiraz may have a similar bottle, but often this is not the case.
Champagne: This bottle design is born out of necessity as much as style. Thick glass, gently sloping shoulders and a deep punt (the indentation on the underside) are necessary as the pressure inside the bottle is 80-90psi (three times the pressure inside an average car tyre). Likewise, New World fizz producers use the same design.
Mosel and Alsace: A slender bottle, narrower than other styles, also much taller, with a very gentle slope to the shoulders. Green glass suggests either the Mosel in Germany, or Alsace in France. The wine contained may still be of a wide variety of styles, however, ranging from dry and off-dry, through to lusciously sweet dessert wines. Read the label!
Rhine: Wine from the Rhine ('Hock') spends its life in a bottle similar in shape to the Mosel/Alsace bottle. The main distinguishing feature is the glass, which is traditionally coloured brown. The traditional wine glasses of the Mosel and the Rhine reflect this, having green and brown stems respectively. Once again, however, the style of wine can vary, and a little label knowledge is required.
Fortified Wines: Many fortified wines, such as Port, Madeira and Sherry, are transported in quite sturdy bottles like this. The vintage Port bottle may have quite a bulge in the neck, supposedly to help capture the sediment as the aged wine is decanted. Many of these wines, especially if for drinking young, would be sealed with a cork stopper rather than a long cork.
No hard and fast rules: This is true particularly when considering the wines of non-classic regions or the New World. Although winemakers may bottle in styles similar to the region that gives them inspiration, there is no requirement to do so. In fact, even with classic regions, almost anything goes, as this wacky bottle of Pere Anselme Châteauneuf-du-Pape shows!
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