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What Do Different Wine Bottle Shapes Mean?

collection of different wine bottles and glasses

Have you ever wondered why wines come in a variety of bottle shapes? It isn’t just a marketing ploy; sometimes those bottles perform specific functions for the wine type. Here’s how to tell what the wine bottle shape says about the wine inside the bottle.

High shoulders

Cabernet sauvignon is primarily housed in a bordeaux bottle, which has high, proud shoulders that make it look as though it is standing at attention. This bottle is thought to have gained its tall shoulders in order to catch the sediment that can accumulate when a bottle is being decanted. Merlot and malbec get the same kind of bottle, as does sauvignon blanc. These grape varieties are traditionally grown in the Bordeaux region, which is how the bottle got its name.

Tall and skinny

Floral wines come in tall, skinny bottles referred to as Hoch, Alsatian, or sometimes, German bottles. This distinctive shape is typically identified with the aromatic Gewürztraminer or riesling. This is the most slender and delicate kind of bottle, and was developed because the main transportation route for these wines was the Rhine River. At the time, the Rhine River was considered a gentle voyage that could accommodate the delicate bottles.

Chubby and sturdy

Champagne bottles look like burgundy bottles, but are slightly chubbier. They are also hefty, as these sturdier bottles must protect the contents-under-pressure bubbly. Champagne bottles have a pronounced “punt,” an indentation in the bottle’s underside.  At one time, punts were useful for strengthening bottles, efficient stacking, and “riddling,” or turning the bottles upside down to loosen sediment for removal. Today, the primary purpose of a punt is to provide the sommelier a handy place to put his or her thumb during that fancy one-hand pour. 

Sloping shoulders

Chardonnay, the most popular wine in the country, typically comes in a burgundy bottle, which has sloping shoulders that announce the sensuality of its contents. Pinot noir also uses this bottle. These two varietal wines are from the principal grapes grown in France’s Burgundy region, which is where the bottle name comes from.