Wine bottle

Wine bottle
A bottle showing the translucent green of many wine bottles

A wine bottle is a bottle used for holding wine, generally made of glass. Some wines are fermented in the bottle, others are bottled only after fermentation. They come in a large variety of sizes, several named for Biblical kings and other figures. The standard bottle contains 750 ml, although this is a relatively recent development. Wine bottles are usually sealed with cork, but screw-top caps are becoming popular, and there are several other methods used to seal a bottle.[1][2][3]



Side-by-side comparison of champagne bottles. (L to R) On ladder: magnum, full, half, quarter. On floor: Balthazar, Salmanazar, Methuselah, Jeroboam

The chart below[4] expresses the sizes of various wine bottles in multiples relating to a standard bottle of wine, which is 0.75 litres (0.20 U.S. gal; 0.16 imp gal) .

Volume (litres) Ratio Name Notes Champagne Bordeaux Burgundy
0.1875 0.25 Piccolo "Small" in Italian. Also known as a quarter bottle, pony, snipe or split. Yes
0.25 0.33 Chopine Traditional French unit of volume Yes
0.375 0.5 Demi "Half" in French. Also known as a half bottle or split. Yes Yes Yes
0.378 0.505 Tenth One-tenth of a U.S. gallon*
0.5 0.67 Jennie "White Spirit" in Welsh. Also known as a 50 cl bottle. Used for Tokaj, Sauternes, Jerez, as well as several other types of sweet wines.
0.620 0.83 Clavelin Primarily used for vin jaune.
0.750 1 Standard Yes Yes Yes
0.757 1.01 Fifth One-fifth of a U.S. gallon*
1.5 2 Magnum Yes Yes Yes
2.25 3 Marie Jeanne Also known as a Tregnum or Tappit Hen in the port wine trade. Yes
3.0 4 Jeroboam (a.k.a. Double Magnum) Biblical, First king of Northern Kingdom. "Jeroboam" has different meanings (that is, indicates different sizes) for different regions in France.[5] Yes Yes
4.5 6 Yes
4.5 6 Rehoboam Biblical, First king of separate Judea Yes Yes
6.0 8 Imperial Yes
6.0 8 Methuselah Biblical, Oldest Man Yes Yes
9.0 12 Mordechai Biblical, Cousin of Esther Queen of Persia Yes Yes
9.0 12 Salmanazar Biblical, Assyrian King Yes Yes Yes
12.0 16 Balthazar Early Christian folklore, one of the Wise Men Yes Yes Yes
15.0 20 Nebuchadnezzar Biblical, King of Babylon Yes Yes Yes
18.0 24 Melchior Early Christian folklore, one of the Wise Men Yes Yes Yes
20.0 26.66 Solomon Biblical, King of Israel, Son of David Yes
25.0 33.33 Sovereign Yes
27.0 36 Primat Yes
30.0 40 Melchizedek Biblical and other Middle East religions Yes

* For many years, the U.S. standard (non-metric) wine and liquor bottle was the "fifth", meaning one-fifth of a U.S. gallon, or 25.6 U.S. fluid ounces (757 ml; 26.6 imp fl oz). Some beverages also came in tenth-gallon, half-gallon and one-gallon sizes. In 1979, the U.S. adopted the metric system for wine bottles, with the basic bottle becoming 750 ml, as in Europe.


Bocksbeutel shaped Wine Bottle
Burgundy bottles

Wine producers in Portugal, Italy, Spain, France and Germany follow the tradition of their local areas in choosing the shape of bottle most appropriate for their wine.

  • Port, sherry, and Bordeaux varieties: straight-sided and high-shouldered with a pronounced punt. Port and sherry bottles may have a bulbous neck to collect any residue.
  • Burgundies and Rhône varieties: tall bottles with sloping shoulders and a smaller punt.
  • Rhine (also known as hock or hoch), Mosel, and Alsace varieties: narrow and tall with little or no punt.
  • Champagne and other sparkling wines: thick-walled and wide with a pronounced punt and sloping shoulders.
  • German wines from Franconia: the Bocksbeutel bottle.
  • The Chianti and some other Italian wines: the fiasco, a round-bottomed flask encased in a straw basket. This is more often used for everyday table wines; many of the higher-grade Chianti producers have switched to Bordeaux-type bottles.

Many North and South American, South African, and Australasian wine producers select the bottle shape with which they wish to associate their wines. For instance, a producer who believes his wine is similar to Burgundy may choose to bottle his wine in Burgundy-style bottles.

Other producers (both in and out of Europe) have chosen idiosyncratic bottle styles for marketing purposes. Pere-Anselme markets its Châteauneuf-du-Pape in bottles that appear half-melted. The Moselland company of Germany has a riesling with a bottle in the shape of a house cat.

The home wine maker may use any bottle, as the shape of the bottle does not affect the taste of the finished product. The sole exception is in producing sparkling wine, where thicker-walled bottles should be used to handle the excess pressure.

Most wine bottles standards have a bore (inner neck) diameter of 18.5 at the mouth of the bottle and increase to 21 mm before expanding into the full bottle.


The traditional colours used for wine bottles are:

  • Bordeaux: dark green for reds, light green for dry whites, clear for sweet whites.
  • Burgundy and the Rhone: dark green.
  • Mosel and Alsace: dark to medium green, although some producers have traditionally used amber.
  • Rhine: amber, although some producers have traditionally used green.
  • Champagne: Usually dark to medium green. Rosé champagnes are usually a colorless or green.

Clear bottles have recently become popular with white wine producers in many countries, including Greece, Canada and New Zealand. Most red wine worldwide is still bottled in green glass.


Most wine bottles finished with a cork, and some with screwcaps have a protective sleeve called a capsule (commonly referred to as a "foil") covering the top of the bottle. The purpose of which is to protect the cork from being gnawed away by rodents or infested with the cork weevil., and to serve as collar to catch small drips when pouring. The capsule also serves as a decorative element of the bottles label. Capsules were historically made of lead; However, because of research showing that trace amounts of toxic lead could remain on the lip of the bottle and mix with the poured wine,[6] lead capsules (lead foil bottleneck wrappings) were slowly phased out, and by the 1990s,[7] most capsules were made of tin, heat-shrink plastic (polyethylene or PVC), or aluminium or polylaminate aluminium. Sealing wax is sometimes used, or the capsule can be omitted entirely.[8] In the US, the FDA officially banned lead foil capsules on domestic and imported wine bottles as of 1996.[9]


An empty wine bottle with a punt at its base.

A punt, also known as a kick-up, refers to the dimple at the bottom of a wine bottle. There is no consensus explanation for its purpose. The more commonly cited explanations include:[1]

  • It is a historical remnant from the era when wine bottles were free blown using a blowpipe and pontil. This technique leaves a punt mark on the base of the bottle; by indenting the point where the pontil is attached, this scar would not scratch the table or make the bottle unstable.
  • It had the function of making the bottle less likely to topple over—a bottle designed with a flat bottom only needs a small imperfection to make it unstable—the dimple historically allowed for a larger margin of error.
  • It consolidates sediment deposits in a thick ring at the bottom of the bottle, preventing much/most of it from being poured into the glass;[10]
  • It increases the strength of the bottle, allowing it to hold the high pressure of sparkling wine/champagne.
  • It accommodates the pourer's thumb for stability and ease of pouring.
  • According to legend the punt was used by servants. They often knew more than their master about what was happening in town, and with a thumb up the punt they could show their master whether a guest was reliable or not. (Vinavisen 19 may 2008 - danish)
  • It provides a grip for riddling a bottle of sparkling wine manually in the traditional champagne production process.
  • It consumes some volume of the bottle, allowing the bottle to be larger for the same amount of wine, which may impress the purchaser.[11]
  • Taverns had a steel pin set vertically in the bar. The empty bottle would be thrust bottom-end down onto this pin, puncturing a hole in the top of the punt, guaranteeing the bottle could not be refilled [folklore].
  • Prevents the bottle from resonating as easily, decreasing the likelihood of shattering during transportation.
  • Allows bottles to be more easily stacked end to end.[11]
  • Bottles could be stacked in cargo holds on ships without rolling around and breaking.

Environmental impact

Glass retains its colour on recycling, and the United Kingdom has a large surplus of green glass because it imports a large quantity of wine but produces very little. 1.4 million tonnes are sent to landfill annually.[12]

Glass is a relatively heavy packing material and wine bottles use quite thick glass, so the tare weight of a full wine bottle is a relatively high proportion of its gross weight. The average weight of an empty 75 cl wine bottle is 500 g (and can range from 300 to 900 g), which makes the glass 40% of the total weight of the full bottle.[13] This has led to suggestions that wine should be exported in bulk from producer regions and bottled close to the market. This would reduce the cost of transportation and its carbon footprint, and provide a local market for recycled green glass.[14][15] Less radically, box wine is sold in large-size light cardboard and foil containers, though its use has been restricted to cheaper products in the past and as such retains a stigma. Some wine producers are exploring more alternative packagings such as plastic bottles and tetra packs.[citation needed]

Notes and references

  1. ^ a b Johnson, Hugh (2004). The Story of Wine. Sterling Publishing. ISBN 1840009721. 
  2. ^ Jackson, Ron (1997). Conserve Water, Drink Wine: Recollections of a Vinous Voyage of Discovery. Haworth Press. ISBN 1560228644. 
  3. ^ MacNeil, Karen (2001). The Wine Bible. Workman. ISBN 1563054345. 
  4. ^ Wine 101 ::[dead link]
  5. ^ "Jeroboam Wine Facts". Retrieved 2008-12-26. 
  6. ^ Fisher, Lawrence M. (1991-08-02). "Lead Levels in Many Wines Exceed U.S. Standards for Water -". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-01-02. 
  7. ^ [1][dead link]
  8. ^ "30 Second Wine Advisor". Retrieved 2010-01-02. 
  9. ^ "Justia :: 21 C.F.R. § 189.301 Tin-coated lead foil capsules for wine bottles". 1996-02-08. Retrieved 2010-01-02. 
  10. ^ This may be more historical than a functional attribute, since most modern wines contain little or no sediment. (MacNeil 2001)
  11. ^ a b "Punt Wine Bottle Indentation". Retrieved 2010-01-02. 
  12. ^ Hickman, Leo (2006-05-09). "Is it OK ... to drink wine?". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-11-22. 
  13. ^ "The WRAP Wine Initiative". Retrieved 2011-9-14. 
  14. ^ Lamb, Garth. "Carbon copy". Waste Management & Environment. Retrieved 2007-11-22. "If wine was imported in bulk vats and then bottled locally, the market for the most beneficial recycling option would increase." 
  15. ^ "New Wine Bottle Project" (Press release). British Glass. 15 September 2006. Retrieved 2007-11-22. 

See also

External links

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