We all drink wine and recognise that wine bottles come in all shapes and sizes, and I'm sure most of us have wondered why? 

There are roughly 12 classic wine bottle shapes, excluding the unique bottle designs that some producers have come up with with to increase the "Instagramableness" and boost sales. There are, however, three distinct bottle shapes that most winemakers choose to bottle their wines. The Burgundy bottle, the Bordeaux bottle and the Alsace/Mosel bottle.

Let's look at these three bottle shapes to better understand why they are shaped the way they are and what impact the shape has on the wine.

Wine-Bottles

Photo Credit: Alcoholic Drinks


The Burgundy Bottle

Burgundy Bottle

Photo Credit: Bottle your Brand

The Burgundy bottle is the oldest of its counterparts and dates back to the early 19th century. A classic and elegant-looking bottle with gentle sloping shoulders and a slightly wider body than the others. These bottles are used for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. It is believed the design for this bottle came about as it was easier for glassmakers to create. The colour of a traditional Burgundy bottle will range from light to dark green (brownish looking). One adaptation of this shape found its way to the Rhone Valley, where the bottles are slightly thinner and a tad taller with a slightly longer neck and are embossed with a coat of arms. 

The Bordeaux Bottle

Bordeaux bottle

Photo Credit: Bottle your Brand

The Bordeaux bottle has very clean lines: straight, thin sides, with very high, distinct shoulders. Some say the high shoulders were designed to catch the sediment that would build up in older Bordeaux wines, but this has never been confirmed. Another reason for the difference in shape is purely to differentiate it from its Burgundian cousin. It is now the most-popular-shaped bottle used the world over, housing many different varieties, but mainly Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and the Bordeaux whites Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.

The Alsace/Mosel Bottle

Alsace Bottle

Photo Credit: Bottle your Brand

The Alsace/Mosel bottle was created just after the Bordeaux bottle, and was at first used to house dry and sweet Riesling. Nowadays it is also used for Gewurtztraminer. These bottles are tall, slim and very elegant. They are also much lighter and thinner than the Burgundy and Bordeaux bottles. The reason for this is the transportation route these wines had to take across the Rhine River. River boats were small, so these bottles had to be thin and light to fit as many bottles in the boat as possible. An adaption of the Alsace/Mosel bottle is its German cousin the Rhine Bottle. The two bottles are quite similar and house the same wines. The way to tell the difference is that Alsace/Mosel bottles will be green, while the Rhine bottles will be a dark brown as well as slightly thinner.

Other Bottle Shapes Worth Mentioning

  1. Champagne Bottle: The only bottle with a distinct purpose for its shape. The design is technical rather than for style like the others. Thick glass, gentle sloping shoulders and a deep punt are quite essential to avoid exploding bottles, a waste of wine and a big mess!
  2. Fortified Wine Bottle: This bottle is similar in shape to the Bordeaux bottle, with straight sides and high shoulders. The only difference is the bulge on the neck of the bottle. It also has a deeper punt to collect sediment, as fortified wines can age for a very, very long time. The closure is also unique, unlike a generic tall cork, fortified wines are made with a cork stopper that allows you to open and reseal the wine in an easier manner.

 


Bottles are certainly unique and, regardless of shape, are a traditional form of regional identity. Who says the quality of a Pinot Noir would differ if bottled in a Bordeaux bottle? Perhaps, an experiment one should try! However, for now, we will never know, as it is highly unlikely that any winemaker will break the tradition of which wines get bottled in which bottles. Plus, it also makes it easier for us wine lovers to identify and know what we are drinking.

On a final note, there is another, far more recent vessel to house wine...the cardboard box. While not a bottle, it does go to show, that perhaps it really doesn't matter what the wine is stored in, as long as it is drinkable!



 

Kyle Oosterberg

Written by Kyle Oosterberg

Kyle is our Wine Director, which means he’s our go-to wine guy when Eddie isn’t around. At The Flying Winemaker we aim to make wine accessible to everyone in a way as far away from textbook learning as possible, and Kyle always keeps this in mind, combining fun and education when he hosts wine tastings.

At the tender age of 16 Kyle began his journey at the prestigious and award-winning Spier Wine Farm in Stellenbosch, South Africa. There he gained experience in all aspects of wine production, including working vines during harvest, marketing, representing wineries at trade events and educating visitors in the tasting room.

When away from work Kyle moonlights as Batman after a few beers, but he can also be found near any large body of water pursuing his other passion, surfing. He has only one weakness: working with computers and any technology made after 1990.

Favourite wines: Chenin Blanc for white wines and Pinot Noir for red

 

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