Why are the wine bottles shaped so differently?
Wine bottles come in all shapes and sizes, from tall and thin to short and full-bodied. And while the shape of the bottle does not make a difference on the taste of the wine, the chosen glass is often a good part of the history and tradition that reflects the origin of wine production.
Although there are hundreds of different glass shapes, most winemakers choose to go with one of these three: Bordeaux glass, Burgundy glass and Alsace / Mosel glass. Here is a brief explanation of the origin of each:
THE BURGUNDY MODEL
The first of the three bottles destined to become ubiquitous was the Burgundy glass. Invented sometime in the 19th century, it is believed that curved glass shapes exist only because this design was easier to create for glassmakers.
Following the creation of the bottle, the producers of this model began using the vessels to bottle their red and white wines. Over the decades, the model became popular because glass was used to bottle the famous Pinot and Chardonnay varieties, and as these two popular grape varieties spread around the world, so did the Burgundy glass model. Today, most red wines with a Pinot Noir-like aroma - light, bright and complex - such as Nebbiolo, Gamay and Etna Rosso, can also be found in this glass model.
THE BORDEAUX MODEL
Let's not forget that almost immediately after the creation of the Burgundy glass model, the famous Bordeaux model appeared. Hosting the world's two most popular red wines, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, this bottle immediately became the most widely used wine maker in the world. What differentiates Bordeaux glass from Burgundy glass is the shape of the glass's distinctive shoulders. Most believe that these shapes were created to "catch" the sediment that could often accumulate in the old Bordeaux model while the glass was decanted. However, it has not been confirmed that this is the real reason why Bordeaux glass has distinctive shoulders; many also believe that design was the only reason to separate this model from its cousin Burgundy.
THE ALSACIAN / MOSEL MODEL
The Alsace / Mosel bottle appeared shortly after the Bordeaux model. Originally created for storing Riesling varieties - both dry and sweet - it can now be seen that the glass also houses similar wines such as Gewurztraminer. These bottles are much more delicate than their Burgundy and Bordeaux counterparts and it is believed that this glass model appeared because the main transport route for these wines was the Rhine, which means smaller river vessels, so the bottles had to be thin to fit as much as possible inside the ship. And since the transport took place on a river, the bottles were more delicate, because it was a much easier journey than the sea, where the wines from Burgundy and Bordeaux were often on their way to Great Britain.
THE PORT MODEL
The main bottle in which you will find Port, Sherry, Madeira and other fortified wines. This resembles a Bordeaux bottle, but with a key difference. The neck of a Port bottle has a bulb to trap excess sediment during pouring.
THE PROVENCE MODEL
The shape somewhat resembles a bowling pin, an hourglass or even a corset. As the name suggests, this bottle comes from Côtes de Provence, the famous rosé-producing region. With the current trend for rosé wines, you’re very likely to spot this shape of bottle when shopping for wine.
Regardless of the shape of the bottle in which your wine comes, the most important aspect of all these three models of bottles is that they allow the bottles to be stored on one side, causing the wine to come in contact with the cork and ensure a perfect seal without oxygen.
Although wine bottles come in different sizes, shapes, and colours — and not just for aesthetic reasons, the most common bottle forms are part of long traditions that were established in historic wine regions and passed around the globe until they became part of the everyday language of wine. If you can crack the code, the shape can actually tell you the secrets that you’re about to taste.