Oenologie - Pourquoi tant de formes pour les bouteilles de vins ? - Les Grappes

Why so many shapes for wine bottles?

Most often, they contain 75cl, they can make more, make less. They are high, short, they have shoulders, flat bottoms or prickles. They can sometimes be decorated with coats of arms, engravings. They are all different, but their primary function is to preserve the elixir, the wine, red, white or rosé. The bottles!

From amphora to bottle

These worthy heiresses of amphoras, jugs, leather and pewter gourds are now produced by the millions every year. Moreover, even though the Romans invented the blown glass, this one being at the beginning very rare and expensive, we owe the democratization of the glass bottle to our neighbours the British and their coal ovens (their thirst for wine also being for something to do with it). Indeed, the English not being winemakers, they received the wine in large barrels, which did not facilitate neither the conservation of the product, nor its transport. It is thus from a practical point of view that the marketing of bottling overseas was born in the 18th century. The first French people to take advantage of it were, unsurprisingly, the people of Champagne, who quickly understood that they would also have to tint the glass to fight against ultraviolet rays, the first enemies of bottled Champagne.

From practice to tradition

Very quickly, the glass bottle spreads everywhere, and very quickly, each region, each appellation adopts its particular shapes, with more or less reasons. Some bottles are even subject to rigid regulations present in the specifications of certain appellations. However, they all have points in common: they all have a ring, a neck, a barrel and a bottom, often accompanied by a puncture (a hollow at the bottom of the bottle). These common bases are of course variable from one bottle to another. Let's analyse the different shapes of our French bottles.

  • La Bourguignonne: it is the French bottle par excellence, we tend to put traditionally all the chardonnays of the world in this kind of bottle, with a fine neck, low shoulders, a wide and short barrel, and a well pricked bottom!
  • The Champenoise: a shape that reminds us of the Burgundy, it is by its weight that it is different, much heavier than any other bottle.
  • The Bordelaise or the Frontignan: it is perhaps the best known and most widespread bottle in the world, the Bordelaise has the fine and short neck, its cylindrical barrel is of average size, its puncture more or less important. Its high and marked shoulders make its distinction. These are used to retain any deposit during the service of the wine, traditionally present in the Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon grape varieties.
  • La Rhodanienne: like many others, it is inspired by the Burgundian, with a slightly wider barrel that gives it a bon vivant look. In Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the appellation area even allows the commune's coat of arms to be added to the bottle, a sign supposed to inspire quality.
  • La Provençale: they are perhaps the most original, undoubtedly as a kind of promotion in a region which produces almost only rosé wines, whose image is less noble than that of the reds or whites. One counts 2 "traditional" forms of bottles of Provence, the flute with corset, which, as its name indicates it, resembles to un corps à forme généreuses cintré dans un corset, et la côte-de-Provence dont le bas du fût est plus large que le reste de la bouteille. No practical aspect emerges from these singular shapes, which is why the wines of the region are often found in Bordeaux bottles, which are more elegant!
  • The Loire Valley or Ligérienne: of rather classic shape, it resembles a Burgundy with a finer barrel. The coat of arms of the Loire Valley is traditionally engraved on the bottle. In the Muscadet, one has even created a bottle reserved only for the Muscadet sur Lie appellation; reserved but not obligatory.Slightly longer than the classic Loire Valley, a small wave and the words "Sur Lie" are engraved on the bottle.
  • The Alsatian flute: long and full of finesse, it is obligatory to be called Vin d'Alsace. It is found nowhere else, its particularity being its very flat bottom. This detail which proves that the sting, more or less important according to the bottles, is not a guarantee of quality, many Alsatian wines being of course excellent!
  • Le Clavelin du Jura: 62cl ! It is the regulation. The exception which confirms the European standard, which it, would want only bottles of 75cl. The Clavelin du Jura, the classic bottle of the yellow wines, small, the shoulders and the barrel very wide, has managed to keep its small capacity, representative of the loss of wine incurred during its long aging of 6 years and 3 months under a veil of yeasts.

From tradition to marketing

Only the last two bottles mentioned are part of the measures to be respected in the specifications of the appellations concerned to bear their names. As for the other shapes, Bordeaux, Burgundy, etc., they are not subject to any regulation! Winegrowers therefore have the choice to put their wines in any shape of bottle. And yet, we could believe the opposite, because, for the sake of tradition or recognition, it is indeed these traditional forms that we find most often.

This is why, accompanying a breath of renewal - or certainly of marketing - many houses have chosen to play with these old codes. Some of them have created completely original bottle shapes, as with the Infiltrado cuvée from the Hacienda del Carche (Spain), whose slanting shoulder would make it easier to operate on the bottle.The bottle of Miraval en Provence, small and very large, reminiscent of the Ruinart Champagne bottle, whose reputation is well established. These generous and sometimes unique shapes raise the price of the bottles and boost sales, but are unfortunately not designed for storage in wine cellars. Others, for example, play the disorientation card by cleverly putting Bordeaux wines in Burgundy bottles, as is the case with the Le Blanc Bonhomme cuvée from Château Pey-Bonhomme-Les-Tours in Blaye, whose tasting does not leave one indifferent.

Finally, it is nevertheless good to note that one should not be satisfied to choose one's wine according to the shape of the bottle, the habit does not make the monk, the most important remains the content. As for the container, it often remains attached to old traditions that allow us to recognize the a priori origin of the wine, which has, of course, nothing to do with its quality.

Mélany Bachmann (cellarman) for Les Grappes

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