Bottle Colors

By Gus Clemens

Ninety-nine bottles of wine on the wall, ninety-nine bottles of wine. Take one down, pass it around, ninety-eight bottles of wine on the wall.

If there are that many bottles, chances are very good they are different shapes and colors. Why?

This being about wine, reasons are messy and no one really knows for sure, but over next weeks we explore plausible explanations.

First, glass colors. These sort of make sense:
•  Bordeaux: dark green for reds, light green for dry whites, clear for sweet whites. Most of the time.
•  Burgundy and Rhône: dark green.
•  Mosel and Alsace: dark to medium green, some producers use amber, a few blue.
•  Rhine: brown or amber, but some producers use green.
•  Champagne: Dark to medium green. Rosé champagnes typically are colorless or green.
•  New World: mimic Old World, or not. In New World, pretty much anything goes.

Why colored glass? One explanation is darker colored glass is used for wines intended for aging because light is wine’s mortal enemy. Wines intended for quick consumption don’t need protection from natural or artificial light. Wine intended for longer storage benefits from protection afforded by darker glass. This is the utilitarian explanation.

Well and good, but marketing is another, and maybe more compelling, reason. If every bottle is the same, it is difficult for your superior elixir to stand out from that horrid swill your competitor proffers.

Let’s be honest. Most wine shoppers don’t know much about what they are buying. Experts often are baffled, too, although few admit it. Exotic bottle shapes and colors, clever labels, kitschy names move product. Need an answer for why a bottle looks the way it looks? Follow the money.

Tasting notes:
•  Prazo de Roriz Douro Doc 2011. Delicious plum, dark cherry, spice; medium body, tight tannin (decant), balancing acidity; nice bargain buy. $16
•  Marqués de Cáceres Gran Reserva Rioja 2004. Excellent, focused effort; plum, berry, spice, light oak, dry; firm tannin, delicious, decant. $32
•  Amapola Creek Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2012. Honeysuckle nose; crisp citrus, vibrant, sharp minerality; chard connoisseur’s delight. $45

Last round: If you give up smoking, drinking and loving, you don’t actually live longer; it just seems longer. (Attributed to Clement Freud).

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