“It’s what is on the inside that counts” -everyone, ever.
It’s true. We’ve used this feel-good trope before when referencing wine inside a bottle. But let’s get it straight- bottle shape matters, too!
The unique tale of each wine spans far beyond its vintage year, grape varietal, or terroir. Whether the bottle is tall and slender or short and stocky, we can make some key assumptions regarding the wines legacy.
A seemingly basic concept, the actual truth has been quite perplexing, as there is no recorded reason as to why bottle shapes and sizes differ. In earlier times, bottles were stored upright in rounded containers. As time went on and the use of cork closures became the norm, bottle shapes evolved as well. Through historical records, we can see that bottles adopted a much more cylindrical shape, very closely resembling the containers we are used to seeing today.
It would not be crazy to assume that bottle shape has something to do with the flavor profile of the wine inside. Serious wine drinkers use several different glass shapes and sizes when drinking whites vs. reds or sweet vs. dry wines, so the assumption is not far fetched. However, what we do know about these varying shapes falls back on tradition. Each of the classic bottle shapes comes from a different wine-growing region. These wines, and those that are similar in style, have continued to be bottled according to these traditions ever since. Without further ado, let’s get into it!
Burgundy- This bottle shape was the first to emerge among our four basic bottle shapes. Burgundy bottles have a wider base, with sloping shoulders. More often than not, wines bottled in this style have a similar flavor profile to the traditional wines of Burgundy, such as the lighter-bodied Pinot Noir or a Chardonnay.
Bordeaux- The Bordeaux bottle is much taller and straighter, its shoulders sit high, and the slope is much more apparent than a Burgundy bottle. Traditionally the Bordeaux bottle was used to bottle Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. However, this style has easily become the most common bottle shape on the market. There are many other wines, beyond Cabernet and Merlot, that have adopted the Bordeaux bottle as their go-to!
Alsace/Mosel- Following shortly after the Bordeaux style bottle, the Alsatian/Mosel bottle was born. These bottles are the tallest and most slender of the three, featuring smooth, delicate shoulders. Most often, these bottles are used for sweeter wines, such as a Riesling or Gewürztraminer.
Champagne- Easily recognizable, the Champagne bottle shape is similar to that of a Burgundy bottle, with a few crucial differences. A Champagne bottle must be much heavier and able to withstand the pressure of a sparkling wine, which holds nearly three times more pressure than an average car tire! There are many unique variations of this bottle shape, often used to express the uniqueness of the bubbles within.
While there isn’t any logistical reasoning as to why you couldn’t bottle a Pinot Noir in a Bordeaux bottle or a Riesling in a Burgundy bottle (except Champagne), most choose to side with tradition. And hey, why argue with tradition? We’ll drink to that!
Do you have a favorite bottle style? Let us know by leaving a comment below.
Established in 2002, Benchmark Wine Group is the leading source of fine and rare wine retailers, restaurants, and collectors around the world. Based in Napa Valley, we acquire the most sought-after wines from private individuals and professional contacts, but only when provenance can be verified by our team of acquisition professionals. Our staff draws on decades of industry experience and is dedicated to providing exceptional service to all of our clients. Benchmarkwine.com offers 24-hour access to our cellar, displaying inventory in real-time.