Never mind the label… You can tell an awful lot about a wine by just looking at the bottle.
But do you know your bottle shapes as well as you should?
More on that in a moment. But first... why shouldn’t you drink red wine with fish?
In this week’s video, resident expert Julien Miquel breaks down the complexities of pairing wine with fish… from why the texture matters more than you think… to when you can break the red wine rule… and some combos that should be avoided at all cost…
Bottle shapes (continued)
We start with the classic Bordeaux bottle - cylindrical with straight sides and distinctive, high shoulders. For red wines, the glass is usually dark green. For whites, the bottle is a lighter green. And for dessert wines, a clear bottle is used.
A Bordeaux (St Emilion) from one of our 2019 French Collection
This is the most common style of bottle, used worldwide for a huge number of wines from Chilean merlot to Argentinean malbec, Australian shiraz, and Californian cabernet sauvignon.
Spanish Rioja wines use similar bottles, with wire netting often covering the bottle. This invention is credited to the Marques de Riscal, founder of the eponymous winery, as a means to prevent his very desirable wines being counterfeited.
The history of this style dates back to the mid-1800s, which saw a general slimming down of bottle shapes. They moved from a bulbous design towards this narrow, taller form. Straightened sides helped the wine to rest on its side in the cellar. The high shoulders assisted in trapping sediment.
The Burgundy Bottle
The Burgundy bottle is characterized by shallow, sloping shoulders. Many think it predates Bordeaux, being easier to blow. Made from clear or light-green glass, all Burgundy wine uses this style, as do most varietal pinot noirs and chardonnays across the world. Wines with a similar profile to pinot noir also tend to use this type of bottle, for instance Italian nebbiolo and gamay from Beaujolais or the Loire Valley. Other whites use them, too, notably blends from the Rhône and varietal viognier.
A Bordeaux-style bottle (though this wine was actually from the Languedoc) from our 2019 French Collection
The Flute D’Alsace
These tall, slender green bottles are used for the wines of Alsace, and all over the world for the classic varieties of riesling, pinot gris and gewürztraminer. Across the Franco-German border, they are used in the Rhine and Mosel regions. Whereas the Mosel bottles are green, the Rhine bottles are a distinctive brown color.
A green Alsatian-style bottle (a riesling)
Tomas er, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
The reason behind this shape involves ease of transportation. Back in the day, most of these wines were transported for sale on small barges down the Rhine River. Since space was at a premium, a narrow bottle size meant cheaper transport. The gentle journey didn’t require thick glass and the bottles don’t have a dimple on their undersides. This dimple was common on other bottles, many of which traveled on rough seas to England. Also known as a “punt,” it added considerably to a bottle’s strength.
Next week, we’ll get into some of the weirder bottle types, such as the famous Italian “fiasco.”
The Wine Explorer