I spent the better part of a fortnight racking my brain for a relevant and (hopefully) interesting wine-related topic to blog about; unfortunately I was suffering from an emotionally crippling condition called writer’s block. Every single one of my pens stopped working and I forgot how to type (admittedly I am brazenly abusing the figurative sense here).
Eventually, Tesco stepped in to lend me a hand on the inspiration front.
A few days ago, I was on my way to my cousin’s house for dinner when the bright lights of Tesco Express lured me in. I gave in to temptation under the premise of picking up a few healthy snacks – a mission which failed miserably given I walked out with a pretty sizeable bag of maltesers and a bottle of wine.
But it wasn’t just any ordinary bottle of wine. That would make for a pretty dull blog post.
This bottle was quite possibly the weirdest shaped contraption I have ever set my eyes on. A sucker for needless adventure, I went ahead and bought the South African chardonnay without really giving it much consideration.
When I walked into my cousin’s house, the reaction I was met with was one of perplexity and mirth. Hardly surprising as we uncovered the truth behind the bottle: it split into four wine cups reminiscent of the arduously small plastic containers in which airlines sometimes serve water. Not one to waste wine, we peeled the plastic off one of the juice cups, tried it and promptly decided that switching to sake was a wise thing to do (read: the wine wasn’t great).
This somewhat dramatised experience prompted me to think about the different shapes of wine bottle we often see, and how the shape can sometimes provide an insight into where the wine was produced (particularly the case where French wine is concerned). This image – which I’ve pinched – is a great summary.
Going from left to right…Bordeaux: wines produced from France’s most famous region all tend to have straight sides and high shoulders – they say it was designed in such a way to catch the sediment as the wine is decanted. The glass is usually dark green for reds, a lighter green for whites, and clear glass for sweet wine (probably so that we can appreciate the beautiful yellow of Sauternes). This shape of bottle has become pretty ubiquitous now – many winemakers outside France have adopted it as their house style.
Champagne: who doesn’t recognise a Champagne bottle? The classic is a gently sloping bottle, made with thick glass, with a deep indentation in the bottom (functional rather than fashionable). Most sparkling wine producers use the same bottle shape, although the two main exceptions are Prosecco (tends to be more rounded) and Cava (can sometimes be shorter and fatter than regular bottles).
Burgundy: these bottles often have gently sloped shoulders – much like its brother Bordeaux, the shape has become quite ubiquitous in the New World. A very elegant shape.
Alsace / Mosel: these bottle shapes are instantly recognisable. Tall, slim, slender – with green glass more common in Mosel (Germany) and a browny-colour in Alsace (France). When you see this bottle shape, you’re probably buying a riesling or gewürztraminer. Good choice, my friend.
Rhône Valley: wines from the Rhône tend to be not-too-dissimilar to Burgundy although possibly a little bit taller. Wines from Châteauneuf-du-Pape often have a coat of arms indented into the neck (yes it looks as cool as it sounds).
Provence: don’t get me wrong, I love Provençal rosé, but sometimes the shapes are pretty left field. Google “Chateau Minuty wine” if you don’t believe me.
So there we have it – a whistle-stop tour of wine bottle shapes. Now the next question is – what size? A regular 750ml bottle or a 15 litre Nebuchadnezzar? I’ll tell you about that another time.