My first real foray into wine was in heavier reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel, so the tall, high-shouldered bottle was really all I was noticing at the time. As I branched into Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah, I noticed that the bottles had a longer neck or more sloped shoulder.
When I discovered wines from Alsace and Germany such as Riesling and Gewurztraminer, I noticed that these bottle were more slender, with a somewhat longer neck.
The origin of these wine bottle shapes come from the Old World regions where these wines originated. The “Bordeaux” bottle is the shape that holds both red (Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blends) and white (Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc) wines of the Bordeaux region.
“Bordeaux” shaped bottle
The “Burgundy” bottle originated in Burgundy for the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grape varietals that are grown and produced there. This style also made its way south to Beaujolais and the Rhone, for red blends (predominantly Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre) white blends (that include Viognier, Marsanne and Rousanne) and Chateauneuf-du Pape (up to 13 varietals until 2009 and 15 since then)and west to the Loire Valley for many of its wines, both white and red. Most Chateauneuf-du-Pape (“Pope’s new castle”) bottles carry the Pope’s crest on them, as this appellation is close to Avignon, home to the Papacy in most of the 14th century. Champagne is made primarily from Chardonnay and uses the “Burgundy” shaped bottle, although, due to the nature of sparkling wines, other factors also go into consideration. The “Hoch” bottle, with a more elongated shape, is used in Alsace (France), Germany, Luxembourg and Austria,and houses the white wines of these areas. Their counterparts in the New World also use the Hoch bottle.
“Burgundy” shaped bottle
This same pattern of Old World and New World use of bottle shapes is quite consistent. One exception is Shiraz, the name used in Australia for Syrah. Shiraz is mostly bottled in the “Bordeaux” shaped bottle, instead of the “Burgundy” shaped bottle used in the Rhone and California for Syrah. If you look at American Merlots, Cabs and Sauvignon Blanc, you will see they are in the “Bordeaux” shaped bottle, like their counterparts in France. Likewise, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah in the US will be found in “Burgundy” shaped bottles.
Italy is a mixed bag, with Barolo and Brunello found in both bottle shapes, although mostly in the Bordeaux shape. Pinot Grigio is generally found in the Bordeaux bottle.
There are always exceptions and variations, such as the unique bottles used by Manfred Krankl, the owner/winemaker of the California cult wines of Sine Qua Non (above). Another exception is Cabernet Franc, a grape that is used for both blending, in Bordeaux, and as a single varietal in the Loire Valley. In the US, Cabernet Franc is generally bottled in the “Bordeaux” shaped bottle, while the Cab Franc of Loire is bottled in the “Burgundy” bottle.
Some of the “Burgundy” shaped bottles in the US have gotten quite thick and heavy and are difficult to store in most wine coolers, mine included!…This is a subject for another day.
Until next time, à votre santé!