Wine Bottle Shapes

You can learn something about a wine simply by looking at the bottle shape. Many wine producing areas in Europe developed their own unique wine bottle shapes that became the traditional bottle for wines of that region. As winemaking has spread around the world, many New World wines have adopted the traditional European shapes and colours in order to provide an easily recognisable product for their consumers.

Bordeaux

The Bordeaux bottle is straight sided with high, steep shoulders. It is usually made with dark green glass for red wines, light green for white wines, and clear for dessert wines. It is the most widely used bottle shape in the world for red wine, and is used by most wineries for Cabernet Sauvignon , Merlot, Malbec and Meritage or Bordeaux blends. It is an excellent design for wine that produces a large amount of sediment, as the steep shoulders tend to inhibit the flow of the sediment as the wine is poured.

The Bordeaux bottle is also generally used for Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon; the primary grape varieties used in the production of white wines in Bordeaux.

Burgundy

The wine producers in Burgundy use a shallow slope-shouldered shape for both reds and whites, in either light green, or occasionally clear glass. Accordingly, many New World versions of the Burgundian varieties - Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Gamay - are offered in Burgundy bottles. A similarly shapes bottle is used in France's Loire region and yet another variation is common in the Rhone valley, with a slight triangular cross section across their girth.

Alsace, Mosel and Rhine

The wines of Alsace, nearly all white, are sold in tall, slender green bottles nearly identical to those in neighbouring Germany. Germany's two major fine-wine-producing areas are located along the rivers Rhine and Mosel, and in order to distinguish between these two rivals, the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer bottles are bright green, whereas the Rhine bottles are brown.

This shape is also used by wineries in many parts of the world for grape varieties such as Riesling, Gewurztraminer , Pinot Gris and Muller-Thurgau.

Champagne

The bottles used for Champagne need to be able to withstand six atmospheres of pressure - three times the pressure inside an average car tyre. Consequently, they are made out of thick, sturdy glass, with a protruding 'lip' around which the wire basket may be secured. Other than that, the classic Champagne bottle is just a variation of the Burgundy shape.

The relatively squat bottle used for Dom Perignon (as shown), and others in the highest price range, has historical roots in the Champagne region. It is likely that the long, thin neck associated with this shape facilitated the removal by hand of dead yeast (disgorging). This is a labour-intensive process used today only for these fabulously expensive premium Champagnes; for lesser Champagnes it is usually done by machine.

Fortified Wines

Fortified wines, such as Port, Madeira and Sherry, generally use sturdy Bordeaux shaped bottles, sealed with a cork stopper. Port bottles often have a slight bulge in the neck, which helps capture any sediment they may throw off when decanted.