Wine bottles come in all shapes and sizes, from tall and slender to short and stout. And while the bottle shape doesn’t make a difference in terms of impacting the wine’s flavor, the bottle chosen does often represent a good amount of history and tradition that reflects back to where the wine is made.
While there are hundreds of different bottle shapes, most winemakers choose to go with one of these three: the Bordeaux Bottle, the Burgundy Bottle and the Alsace/Mosel Bottle. Here’s an easy explanation of how each came to be:
The Burgundy Bottle
The first bottle of the big three to become ubiquitous was the Burgundy Bottle. Invented sometime in the nineteenth century, it is thought that the bottle’s curved sides exist simply because this design was easier for glassmakers to create. Following the bottle’s creation, Burgundy producers – the people responsible for making the first wines out of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir – began using the vessels to bottle their red and white Burgundies. Within a few decades, the bottle became ubiquitous as the bottle used to house good Pinot and Chardonnay, and as these two very popular grapes spread across the world, so did the Burgundy bottle. Nowadays, most red wines with a flavor profile similar to Pinot Noir – light, bright, and complex – such as Nebbiolo, Gamay and Etna Rosso can be also be found in this style bottle. If you find a white wine inside a Burgundian bottle, traditionally it was a good indication that the white probably saw a bit of oak during the aging process, but with unoaked Chardonnay now becoming a thing, that’s not always the case.
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The Bordeaux Bottle
Not to be outdone, almost immediately following the creation of the Burgundy bottle came the famous Bordeaux variety. Housing the two most popular red wines in the world, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, this bottle immediately became the most used among winemakers the world over. What sets the Bordeaux bottle apart from the Burgundy bottle is the bottle’s distinctive shoulders. Most believe these shoulders were created in order to catch the sediment that could often accumulate in old Bordeaux while the bottle was being decanted. However, it hasn’t been confirmed that this is the actual reason the Bordeaux bottle has its distinctive shoulders; many also believe the design could have been simply to set the bottle apart from it’s Burgundian cousin.
The Alsatian/Mosel Bottle
Finally the Alsatian/Mosel bottle came into existence shortly after Bordeaux. Originally created for storing Riesling – both dry and sweet – the bottle can now be seen housing similar wines such as Gewurztraminer. These bottles are much more delicate than their Burgundy and Bordeaux counterparts and it’s thought this is the case because the main transportation route for these wines was the Rhine river, which meant smaller river ships meaning the bottles needed to be slender in order to fit as many as possible inside the hull. And given that transportation was occurring on a river, the bottles could be more delicate as it was a much gentler voyage than on the high seas where Burgundy and Bordeaux wines often found themselves floating off to Great Britain.
Regardless of what shape bottle in which your wine happens to come, the most beneficial aspect of all three of these bottle designs is that they allow the bottles to be stored on their side, causing the wine to make contact with the cork, and ensuring a perfect oxygen free seal.