Bottle Shapes

By Gus Clemens

You may not be able to judge a book by its cover, but you can tell a bit about wine by its bottle.

There are four major wine bottle shapes:
•  Bordeaux-style bottles have straight sides and pronounced shoulders.
•  Burgundy-style bottles are more plump than Bordeaux bottles and have sloping shoulders.
•  Mosel-Alsace-Rhine bottles are thin, tall, with very gentle slopes on the shoulder.
•  Novelty bottles play on whimsy to grab attention – some Black Cat Wine bottles are shaped like a stylized cat, for instance. In many cases, you are buying the bottle for its shape rather than its contents.

Traditional shapes trace roots to the early 1800s and, likely, were both utilitarian and purposed.

Burgundy shape appears to have appeared first, probably because it is easiest for a glass blower to blow. Pinot noir and chardonnay, wine from the grapes of Burgundy, traditionally fill these bottles.

Champagne bottles are variations on Burgundy theme; they have thicker glass and a deeper punt (dimple in the base) because of pressures involved with sparkling wines. Rhône wines are another Burgundy bottle variant; they often have fancy crests or other glass ornamentation on the shoulders, particularly the higher-end offerings of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas.

Bordeaux bottles were born a short time later, perhaps because winemakers on the west coast of France wanted their bottles to be different than those of central and eastern France. Angular Bordeaux shoulders also serve a utilitarian pouring purpose by helping contain sediments that may develop in Bordeaux reds, but same shape is used for sauvignon blanc, a white wine where sediment is not a concern.

Mosel and Alsace bottles are thinnest of the tall German wine bottles; Rhine bottles are slightly plumper. Mosel and Alsace bottles typically are green glass and Rhine bottles brown.

New World wines generally follow lead of their European forebears, matching grapes and styles to bottle shape rather than bottles to region where wine is made. Whatever the shape, however, best part of a wine bottle is opening it and enjoying the contents.

Tasting notes:
•  Fetzer Sundial Chardonnay 2012. Fresh, lively; tropical fruit-forward, citrus, melon; restrained oak; medium body, balanced; huge value. $7
•  Lillet Blanc French Aperitif. Bright, restrained sweet, citrus; pour very cold; superb cocktail w/ prosecco/other bubbly. $20

Last round: I drink wine because my therapist told me I shouldn’t keep things bottled up.

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