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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

"Reading" a Wine by its Bottle Color and Shape

Most bottles are made of transparent glass so that the clarity of the wine can be observed through it. Seeing sediment in a young red wine is a danger sign and usually means the wine was mishandled or heated in shipment. White wines are almost always bottled in clear glass. They do not need ultimate protection from light, since most are consumed while young. Ditto for rosé and blush wines. The deep punt or indentation in the bottom of the bottle is not to catch any sediment, but rather to make the bottle sturdy enough to withstand the pressure of the bubbles in Champagne, or the weight of bottles stacked on top of each other in a cellar.

Certain bottle shapes are reserved by tradition for certain types of wine. Experts can often make an educated guess as to what grape variety any particular bottle contains just by its shape. Here are the most common shapes and the type of wine they typically contain (see Figure 3.1):

Figure 3.1 How to "read" a wine by the shape of its bottle.

  • High-shouldered Bordeaux bottles in dark green glass usually contain the red Bordeaux varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, while clear glass Bordeaux bottles are traditionally used for the white Bordeaux grapes Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. Also, brown Bordeaux-shaped bottles are used in Italy for fine red wines from Sangiovese in Tuscany.

  • Sloping shouldered Burgundy bottles in mint or olive green glass are reserved for the Burgundy grapes Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Rhône bottles are shaped similarly to Burgundy bottles but made of darker glass. These heavier Rhône bottles signal the Rhône grapes such as Syrah, or heavier wines such as Barolo from Italy.

  • Tall, slim, green or brown German bottles foretell contents of German or Alsace grapes such as Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and Pinot Gris.

  • Thick, heavy, dark green bottles with deep punts are necessary for Champagne bottles and sparkling wines to withstand the pressure of the bubbles.

  • Finally, Porto bottles are opaque black glass to keep out the light and hide the sediment forming over many years of aging.

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