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bottles that is a bit fatter around, with some somewhat twisted examples as
seen in the Rhône photo.
These wines are blends of all or some of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsaut, Carignane
Another variant can be found in some of the Rosé wines of Provence,
where a slim, Burgundy-style bottle is “sexed up” with a “corseted” waist, as
seen in the last of the photos. More on that below.
In Italy, mixes of Bordeaux and Burgundy bottles are generally used,
although often brown in colour for red wines. To those of us of a certain age,
this creates a tinge of nostalgic regret, as they have replaced the basketcovered
version (akin to the Bocksbeutal only green) that made such great
candlesticks in our youth (and which a few producers still use). It seems
that Piedmont producers use both the Bordeaux and Burgundy styles for
their wines, while the Tuscans tend to stick to the Bordeaux bottle. Generally
Italian whites come in a Bordeaux-style bottle.
The tall, thin and austere Hock bottle, being German and thus eminently
practical (as it is the style that best fits into your refrigerator) is used for
Riesling, Gewürztraminer and other Germanic and French Alsace varietals.
Hence my bemused reaction to that bus stop poster.
So how did this distinction in bottle shapes arise? Well, in all cases it was
for practical and not fashion reasons.
Early winemakers of Mesopotamia, Egypt and Greece used clay flasks,
called amphorae, to store wine. They were stamped with the vineyard’s
name, the vintage and the type of wine. The Romans, who developed glassblowing,
found glass to be a better medium for storing wine, but as the glass
was blown by hand each bottle was somewhat different in size and shape.
There were also problems with the stability of glass, so it fell out of favour
for a time, with a reversion to flasks and pots for storage. As glassblowing
improved, experimentation began with shapes, colours and sizes of bottles.
Most often wine was stored in barrel and only decanted into a bottle when
it was to be served.
These earlier bottles were onion-shaped, like the Bocksbeutal, but it was
found that a longer and flatter shape was more suited for storing a wine, as
in order to remain airtight bottles had to be stored on the side or upside
down to prevent the cork from drying. It was also found that bottle sizes of
700 to 800 ml were the largest that were still easy to carry, although magnums
and other special sizes continued. By the 1800s improvements in
glassblowing allowed for standardized size and quality, and wine regions
began settling on the preferred shapes for their wines. In the 1890s the first
machine-produced bottle was used for Cognac and the age of truly uniform
bottle shape and size had begun.