Bottles and Wine
As a rule of thumb, different varieties of wine are bottled in different shaped and colored bottles. Today, you can find some wines which come in plastic bladders encased in boxes, Ive seen sparkling wines in pop top cans, and quite recently, I discovered you may purchase wine in a single serving plastic cup. Traditional glass containers are by far the best for wine storage. Glass will not impart any flavors into the wine, making it ideal for long term storage, and for enjoying the true flavors of the wine that the wine-maker intended. Thats not saying there may be a time and place one of the newer packaging would be ideal, like picnics or concerts in the park. The shape of the bottle will generally indicate the type of wine.Bordeaux: 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.Burgundy: Here, gently sloping shoulders suggests a wine from Burgundy, with both red and white wines in similar green glass. This shape is also widely used throughout the New World for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.Rhone: Similar in style to the Burgundy, but not quite as round.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 80-90 psi. Champagne bottles are used throughout the wine-making world for carbonated wines.Mosel and Alsace: A slender bottle, narrower than other styles, also much taller, with a very gentle slope to the shoulders. Different shades of green glass suggests either the Mosel in Germany, or Alsace in France.Rhine: Wine from the Rhine spends its life in a bottle similar in shape to the Mosel/Alsace bottle. The main distinguishing feature is the glass, which is traditionally colored brown. However, as in all wine bottles, the shape and color used is whatever the winery prefers to use, and reading the label will let you know all you need to know about the wine in that bottle.
In early times the standard size glass bottle was the size the glass blower could achieve with a lung full of air. Today, the 750 ml bottle is the most common size. The most common large format bottle on the market is the magnum, which is exactly double a standard bottle, which is 1.5l, or two standard bottles. After the magnum size, many wineries will bottle some vintages in larger formats. These large format bottles are: Marie- Jeanne, 2.25 liter, or three-bottle capacity Double magnum ,3 liter or four bottles. Jeroboam, or Rehoboam, 4.5 liter, or six bottles. Imperiale, or Methuselah, 6 liter or eight bottles Salmanazar, 9 liter or 12 bottles. Balthazar, 16 bottles, and the huge… Nebuchadnezzar which equals 20 bottles!The larger the bottle, the harder it becomes to remove the cork, which is larger as well.
There isnt any standard of thickness for a bottle of wine. Many wineries that produce ultra premium wines use very thick glass bottles. Bottles of wine on an average weigh a little over two pounds, today you will find wines on the shelf that weigh over four pounds a bottle. Standard wine bottles, excluding Alsatian and Mosel style bottles, were 11 inches tall, but they started to gain height in the 80s. Today most wines are in 12 to 13 inch bottles, with some topping out at 14 inches.A punt refers to the dimple at the bottom of a wine bottle. In some unfiltered wines it does consolidate sediment deposits in a thick ring at the bottom of the bottle, preventing it from being poured into the glass. It does hold the bottles in place on pegs of a conveyor belt as they go through the filling process in manufacturing plants; and it accommodates the pourer’s thumb for stability and ease of pouring. For champagne and sparkling wines, the punt it allows a bottle to be turned upside-down and then stacked. It increases the strength of the bottle, allowing it to hold the high pressure of sparkling wines and champagne.It also may be a remnant from when wine bottles were hand blown. There would be a stubble at the bottom where the glass blowers tube was connected. The glass blower would push the area into the bottle to alleviate the stubble from scratching tables.Many people believe it is a symbol that the wine is superior, which isnt so on all wines. The larger punts meant a heavier, taller bottle. This began as marketing ploys, mostly for California Cabernets. Then other varietals joined in, to indicate to the consumer the bigger the bottle the bigger the wine. As always, the best wine is the one you enjoy the most, regardless of the packaging.
Janice Jones is a Truckee resident and wine consultant. Reach her at email@example.com.
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