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Apr 16, 2012 10:28 AM

Standardisation in bottle sizes and shapes?

Over the past couple of years, I've been unscientifically observing that many of the wine bottles I've been encountering conform to very similar dimensions, although they are not all of the same construction (e.g., different glass thickness, punt size). I haven't any long experience to draw from here, though, and I'm curious if this is a real trend, or more one of the bargain wine 'spelunking' that I've been getting up to of late. My sense is that I remember--from when I first started trying and drinking wines--was that bottle shapes ran the gamut, with all kinds of flourishes (little embossed details, etc.), and that I don't see this much anymore.

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  1. There is a lot of variety in the shape of bottles, but there is a fair amount of standardization too.

    The high shouldered, flat sided 'Bordeaux Bottle' is used by most wineries for Cabernet Sauvignon , Merlot, Malbec and most Meritage or Bordeaux blends. This is because those are the key grape varieties that are allowed for use in red wines from the Bordeaux region. When new world producers started bottling these wines, they used the Bordeaux bottle to try to replicate the cache of Bordeaux. The Bordeaux bottle is also generally used for Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon as these are the primary grape varieties allowed in the production of white wines in Bordeaux.

    The slope shouldered 'Burgundy Bottle' is generally used for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir around the world. These are the two key grape varieties used in the Burgundy region of France for white and red wine production. This shape is also used for many Loire Valley wines. Again, because this was producers wanted to use a bottle that was recognizable.

    The tall Alsace bottle or the 'Hoch Bottle' is also used in Germany (green in the Mosel and brown in the Rhine.) It is used by wineries in many parts of the world for several grape varieties including Riesling and Gewurztraminer.

    Champagne bottles have a classic shape, but a lot of producers use a shorter, fatter variation. The same goes for Port, there is a classic shape that most producers use, but I've see variations.

    1. Just checked 70 still wines in the shop I work in....... there are 3 basic shapes total.- "Bordeaux', Burgundy', and the Alsace....... the same 3 dinwiddie has described. I've been around wine for 35 years and don't recall much different, except the odd Chianti types from decades ago.

      Thickness/weight and punt do vary more, but the shapes seem consistent. Some wineries use screened or embossed labels vs. paper, and a small number do more unique treatments...... like Orin Swift's Mercury Head dime being the only embellishment on the front of that bottle (or his earlier Saldo, which had only an embossed "dymo" label on the front..

      How far back, and to what, are you going with your memory of the big variuances?

      1. Occasionally you can still find Provencal Rosés in their traditional bottles, which is quite different than the big three. There are two different shapes that I can think of that I've attached pictures of.

        1. With but some, rather esoteric exceptions, there are three basic shapes:

          The Bordeaux bottle, with fairly straight sides, and sharp "shoulders." Those are most often seen with Bdx. styled red wines, and also Sauvignon Blancs.

          Then, there is the Burgundy bottle, with straight sides, at the lower portion, but with sloping shoulders, tapering to the neck. Those are used for Chardonnays, PN's, Syrah's, Grenache, etc., though not always.

          The Riesling, or Alsace, which is an elongated bottle, with straight sides, but a much longer neck.

          Wine makers have a lot of latitude, and choices, so one might encounter an oddly-shaped Burgundy bottle, containing one of Larry Turley's Zinfandel, a wine, that one might most often encounter in a Bordeaux bottle.

          Unfortunately, it just depends.


          2 Replies
          1. re: Bill Hunt

            Would the Chateauneuf de Pape be considered a Burgundy type bottle?

            1. re: budnball

              In my cellar, yes.

              Now, there are always variations, but if the "shoulders" slope to the neck, that would be a Burg bottle.


          2. " . . . that I don't see this much anymore."

            I see this all the time! Perhaps it's just the wines you buy?

            4 Replies
            1. re: zin1953

              There's some bottles from Provence that are kind of funky. And bocksbeutel from Franken are still unique. I've had some tasty Italians that have a bulge at the top.
              Even Alsace bottles vary. Some of the Austrian bottles are extremely long. I notice when I have to stack the suckers in my wine locker.
              So I have to agree, there is quite a variation.
              The only thing that annoys me are the trophy wines that use especially thick glass to try to make the wines seem different.

              1. re: SteveTimko

                Hard to believe the but the 02 Huet reserve petillant is a broader bottle than the thickest of Turley's.

                The "Oodles of Bocksbeutels" Franken tasting we did might have caused the majority of my tooth enamel to be wiped clean.

                1. re: BillB656

                  Sounds like you had the Riesling. The silvaners I've had are never that austere.

                  1. re: SteveTimko

                    Exactly. There were a good dozen bottles of riesling (mostly Wirshing and Juliusspital) with a couple of bottles of silvaner and scheurebe tossed in for those that wanted fruit. ;-)