All wine bottles are not created equal! Their physical shape differs greatly from one another based on the type of wine they carry. Some are long and thin, others are short and fat… but don’t worry, I will not hurt their feelings by comparing their looks, because they know beauty comes from within… and it does!
There are 12 types of wine bottles, 13 if you count those goofy bottles that winemakers come up with to attract and boost sales. Today, we will focus on the first 12, and start with the Bordeaux bottle.
Straight and tall stature with high shoulders, this bottle is widely used for the wine we all conveniently reference to as Bordeaux. The glass is dark green for reds, and light green or clear for whites. The Bordeaux bottle is often used as a broad term for a wide variety of grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon , Merlot, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Semillon, Sauternes and most Meritage or Bordeaux blends. However, it isn’t always “Bordeaux”. Take Zinfandel for instance. It originated in Croatia and Italy (under different names), and migrated to the United States in the mid-19th century. Zinfandel has nothing to do the so-called Southwest region of France… at least not yet.
Classic, yet elegant, the Burgundy (Bourgogne) bottle features gently sloping shoulders and a slightly wider body than the rest. Both reds and whites use a dark green colored glass. This bottle is primarily used for Pinot Noir, Aligoté and Chardonnay. Just like Bordeaux, the Burgundy bottle is also used for wines produced in other regions of France, notably the Loire Valley. Due to its popularity, the Burgundy bottle is often stylized. Bottle designers make a bottle with a thicker glass and a fatter girth, frequently used to bottle Pinot Noir in the United States.
This bottle looks a lot like the Burgundy bottle, perhaps just a little thinner and taller. The neck is marginally longer, with more angular sloping shoulders. Rhône bottles are often embossed with a coat of arms below the neck. This style is used for Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah, and other grape varieties. Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Côtes-du-Rhône, two of the most popular wines of the Rhône region, proudly use this bottle, as well as “New World” Shiraz wines produced in other countries (Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States). Generally green colored glass, this shape is primarily used for reds, while whites and roses use clear glass.
Such a party animal! This olive-green bottle represents joy and happiness, and gets invited to many parties and weddings around the world. Sturdy, yet graceful, this bottle’s design is originally based on technical necessities as opposed to style. Its thick glass, gentle sloping shoulders and deep punt are quite essential to avoid a big mess! Champagne is a carbonated or “sparkling” wine, and the pressure can get as high as 80 to 90 psi (3 times the pressure inside a typical tire). Back in the early days of making Champagne, bottles used to explode during transportation. Never mind the perilous aspect of the job, it was such a waste! Keeping all that pressure inside the bottle also requires a larger and reversed tapered cork. A third of the cork will remain outside of the bottle allowing for an easy grip while opening the bottle – unless you know how to saber Champagne bottles ;) In addition to being a technical necessity, the punt is also used by the sommelier to help pour the wine, providing a grip for the thumb at the bottom of the bottle.
5. Côtes de Provence
Though mostly used for rosé, this clear glass bottle is also used for red wine. There are still remnants of traditional winemaking in the Côtes de Provence and some producers still use the regional wine bottle which has a distinctive form that is between an amphora vessel and a bowling pin. Also called a “corset” by the locals for obvious reasons, this bottle shape has been used for decades and it is not going away anytime soon.
6. Mosel & Alsace
These elegant bottles are tall and slim with a long neck, and generally made of a light green glass. Traditionally, wines from the Mosel (Germany) and Alsace (France) regions use it. It is used by wineries for several grape varieties including Riesling and Müller-Thurgau. Their wines can vary from dry to sweet (even sparkling), while “New World” winemakers tend to use this bottle for sweet wines only. In either case, label knowledge is always advised.
Slightly thiner than its Mosel counterpart, this German bottle (once traditionally referred to as ‘hock’) features similar characteristics: tall, slim, a long neck and very little punt. The only obvious difference is the dark brown color of the glass, which sets them apart. It is used for similar grape varieties like Riesling, Müller-Thurgau, Bacchus, as well as the notorious and legendary Gewürztraminer. Riesling has a very strong presence amongst other wine wines, and it is often included in the “top three” white wine varieties together with Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Round body, bulged bottom, and partially covered with a close-fitting straw basket. Yes, I am talking about the one-of-a-kind Chianti bottle, also called a fiasco. Chianti is a red Italian wine produced in Tuscany. Most Chianti is now bottled in more standard shaped wine bottles (Bordeaux shape), though it is not unusual to see them on the shelves of your favorite wine store. The basket is typically made of a swamp weed (or raffia), sun-dried and blanched with sulfur. The glass bottle can have a round bottom, which is much simpler to make by glass blowing. The basket provides a flat base for the glass, as well as extra protection during transportation and handling. Fiaschi can be efficiently packed for transport, with the necks of upturned bottles safely tucked into the spaces between the baskets of upright ones. The use of this iconic Chianti bottle has decreased over the years, which is a real shame, given how popular they once used to be. So grab one of those before they are completely gone, and turn it into a candle holder! You won’t be the first one ;)
Though its name translates to “beer bag”, this bottle is used for wine. Also known as Trollinger, the Bocksbeutel is a type of wine bottle with the form of a flattened ellipsoid, which contains exactly the same volume of wine as more traditional bottles (0.75 Liters). The short neck bottle often features an engraved emblem on the left shoulder, representing the name of the domain. This bottle is similar in shape to the field bottle (canteen), and are manufactured with a flattened shape for practical purposes; it is easier to carry around and it keeps the bottle from rolling away on uneven ground. It is commonly used for wines from the Franconia region in Germany at least since the early 18th century, but is also used for some Portuguese wines, in particular rosés, where the bottle is called cantil. The Bocksbeutel is a protected bottle shape under the European Union.
In spite of this bottle’s little recognition and popularity, I decided to give it my utmost respect by listing it amongst the rest. Featuring a light green color, the bottom half of the bottle is slightly flared, while the top half features inside curved shoulders that gently blend into the long neck. Located between Burgundy and Switzerland, Jura is a little gemstone in a sack of tiny rocks, where each sparkle is a drop of wine. Well known in the wine community, this northeast region of France produces wines from a wide range of grapes, including Savagnin, Poulsard, Trousseau, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay; all of which use this inspiring bottle shape. If you see this bottle in a store, give it a chance, and let me know what you think.
11. Vin Jaune
For those of you who have tried Vin Jaune before, you’ll understand the highly unconventional shape of its bottle. Made in the Jura region of France with Savagnin grapes, Vin Jaune wine is unique and incomparable to any other wines worldwide, and so is the bottle: short, stocky and heavily built. Also called “clavelin”, this bottle is the only bottle legally authorized for Vin Jaune. It only contains 62 cl (22 oz) which is approximately what’s left of 1 liter of wine before the maturation process starts. Vin Jaune needs to mature 6 years in a barrel under a film of yeast, known as the “voile”, before being bottled. This long and lonely journey makes it one of the most valued and respected wines in the world.
12. Fortified Wine
Similarly to the Bordeaux, this bottle features a straight body with high, rounded shoulders. Its most prominent attribute remains the bulged section of the neck, which prevents the sediments from being poured into the glass. By the same token, some of these bottles have a punt which is used to collect and retain those sediments towards the bottom. It is recommended to keep the bottle still while pouring, to keep their sediments undisturbed. The other distinctive aspect of this bottle is the use of a cork stopper, as opposed to the typical long cork. The extremely dark glass protects the wine from the light, and promotes better conservation. This bottle is used for fortified wines, such as Madeira, Marsala, Vermouth, and of course, Port.
Wait a minute… did we miss one?! We sure did. Let’s not forget the one-of-a-kind wine box. Fortunately, this isn’t technically a bottle, so I don’t have to talk about it on this post. Let’s move on, shall we?!
As you well know, size does NOT matter, unless you talk about wine bottles! In which case size does matter. Wine matures more slowly in larger bottles. Some of those bottles tend to have the same neck size as smaller bottles do. Therefore, the amount of air entering the bottle is the same whether the bottle is 75CL or 18L. The oxygen that gets in contact with the wine in a Melchior (18L) is 24 times smaller than that of a regular size 75CL bottle. As a result, the maturing process is much slower, giving the wine enough time to evolve and develop to a certain level of “perfection” before becoming old.
Aside from the overly scientific fact mentioned above, it is the undeniable joy and conviviality of a group of friends sharing the same experience, from the same bottle of wine.
Those are some of the reasons why there are a number of giant-sized bottles. Many of these imperial sizes are named after biblical rulers. Here is a quick chart to remind you that if you ever open a “Melchizedek”, you will need a LOT of friends ;)
Piccolo – 0.2 liter
Chopine – 0.25 liter
Fillette – 0.375 liter
Bouteille – 0.75 liter
Litre – 1 liter
Magnum – 1.5 liters
Jeroboam – 3 liters
Rehoboam – 4.5 liters
Methuselah – 6 liters
Shalmaneser – 9 liters
Balthazar – 12 liters
Nebuchadnezzar – 15 liters
Melchior – 18 liters
Solomon – 20 liters
Sovereign – 25 liters
Primat – 27 liters
Melchizedek – 30 liters
The above list is based on Burgundy and Rhône bottles. Keep in mind those sizes will vary based on the shape of the bottle. Bordeaux and Champagne bottles use a slightly different scale.
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