Bottle shapes have a great deal to do with region and wine making history and it’s surprisingly interesting!
If you’ve got a wine friend who likes to show off about how much they know about wine ask them this the next time you see them:
How many different bottles shapes can you name and what do they look like?
Wine bottles are incredibly important for both the presentation and the protection of the wine. Glass is an inert substance and will impart very little of its own flavour into the wine. This makes it perfect for ensuring that all the flavour development comes from the wine itself. It is also very strong which ensures the wine stays protected, perfect for many years of storage. The dark green colour often used for wines which are meant for cellaring contributes towards keeping harmful light out. Although nothing can substitute the conditions of a cool, dark cellar.
So why the different shapes? It wasn't until the beginning of the 19th century that wine bottles evolved into today's modern styles. The theory is that the Burgundy bottle came first, its gentle sloping sides being easier for glassblowers to master. It's not known if Bordeaux producers wanted to distinguish their wines from those of Burgundy, or if they just designed a bottle with shoulders to help trap sediment when pouring.
We have listed below the most commonly used bottle shapes used for wines the world over. What all of these bottle shapes have in common is that they can be stored horizontally, keeping the cork moist and the seal tight to prevent oxidisation.
With straight sides and tall shoulders, this is perhaps the archetypal image of a wine bottle. Traditionally, wine-makers use dark green bottles for reds, light green for dry whites and clear bottles for sweet whites. This style of bottle is widely used in Italy and the New World, especially for the Bordeaux varietals e.g. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
Broader round the middle and with gently sloping shoulders (as opposed to the more angular Bordeaux bottle), this is an instantly recognisable shape and Chardonnay and Pinot Noir producers the world over will use it for their wines. In Burgundy the glass is green for both the red and white wines.
Also known as the ‘flûte d’Alsace’ these slim, long-necked green glass bottles are amongst the most elegant wine bottles. It has been suggested that their comparative delicacy can be attributed to the fact that unlike the wines of Bordeaux and Port the wines of Alsace (& Mosel) were being shipped by river which meant calmer waters and, critically, smaller vessels that had less storage space.
Famous for its high shoulders and straight sides, the glass is dark green for red wines and light green for the region’s whites. It’s now widely used by winemaker’s around the world who associate it with top-quality wines.
This short-necked, flat, pot-bellied bottle is mostly used in the German wine producing region of Franconia but you’ll also come across it in Italy, Portugal and Greece. If a bottle can look good-natured then this does!
A ‘needs must’ bottle if ever there was one! The glass is thicker than any other wine bottle, the shoulders slope gently and the indent on the bottom of the bottle (better known as the punt) is deeper than normal and all because of the pressure the bottle needs to contain.
Côtes de Provence Bottle
A wonderfully curvaceous wine bottle that has been described as looking a little like a ten-pin bowling pin! It is traditional locally but there is no requirement to use it and it is increasingly falling out of fashion.
Along with Champagne these are the sturdiest of the wine bottles and the distinctive bulge in the neck the purpose of which was to prevent the sediment being poured in to the glass.
Very similar to an Alsace bottle its difference is that its brown glass, as opposed to green.
Very similar to a Burgundy bottle with sloping shoulders, it is sometimes distinct from its northern relation being slightly slimmer in breadth, though you’d have to be pretty beady-eyed to notice! Rhône bottles sometimes have distinctive coats of arms, famously Châteauneuf du Pape and Gigondas
Vin Jaune Bottle
This beautiful and uniquely-sized bottled (620ml) is known locally as the ‘clavelin’. It’s origins are rooted in the wine’s six year and three month cask ageing time which it was said reduced the original litre to just 620ml of liquid.
Sign up to our newsletter and enjoy a 5% discount on your first purchase.