Technical Forum

Wine Bottles

Wine bottles come in certain sizes, shapes and colours sealed with either a cork, screw cap or crown seal.

Size

The most common size of a wine bottle is 750 mL but smaller and larger sizes do exist. One and two litre bottles are becoming increasingly popular as are smaller 375 mL bottle sizes.

Sparkling wines in champagne bottles come in a large array of sizes ranging from 250 mL to 20 L. Each bottle size is named after a biblical or historic figure such as the 1.5 L bottle called a magnum or a 3 L bottle called a jeroboam.

Shape

There are many shapes of bottles used in the wine industry. European producers usually follow the tradition of their local areas in choosing the shape of bottle most appropriate for their wine. Australian wine producers tend to follow this trend. Thus we have bottles such as Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhine and Champagne. Throughout the world however, there are many boutique shapes of bottle used for storing wine; think of a Mateus Rose, a Chianti or the bottle shape used by Peter Lehman's wines from South Australia.

A bottle has a neck, shoulder and body and a punt. The punt refers to the dimple at the bottom of the bottle. Its very pronounced in Champagne and Bordeaux bottles, less so in a Burgundy bottle, a gentle impression in a Rhine bottle and quiet convex in a Chianti bottle - hence the need for the straw! There is no consensus for its purpose.

Bordeaux

Burgundy

Rhine

Champagne

Bottles sealed with a cork have a strengthening ridge of glass near the top of the neck. The inner diameter being 18.5 mm at the mouth increasing to 21 mm before expanding into the full bottle. Bottles sealed with a screw top simply have a thread molded into the top of the neck. More and more sparkling wines are being sealed with a crown seal. Though very efficient there is something about the popping of a cork from a sparkling wine you don't get with a crown seal.

Colour

Their are traditional colours used with the raditional bottles.

  • Bordeaux: dark green for reds, light green for dry whites, colourless for sweet whites
  • Burgundy: dark green
  • Rhine: dark green, medium green and amber
  • Champagne: dark to medium green. Rosé champagnes use colourless glass.

There are many exceptions to these generalisations. Basically dark coloured bottles are used for red wines. The main reason for using coloured glass is that over time sunlight can break down antioxidants thus reducing the storage time. Coloured glass limits the type of light rays that lead to deterioration in the wine. Ready to drink white wines with a short anticipated life span are bottled in less expensive colourless glass.

Foils and Closures

Commercially corked wine bottles have a protective cap called a foil covering the top of the bottle and the cork. The idea is to protect the cork from being gnawed by rodents or infested by cork weevil. It also serves to decorate the bottle. Foils today are made of tin, heat shrinked polythene or PVC or aluminium or polyaminate aluminium. Thank goodness for screw tops.

Commercial systems exits such as SuperVin BVS closures, that will add a tamper free top to the wine bottle. The home wine maker can use cork or a products like Novatwist BVS closures for hand application. The top simply fits over the screw neck of the bottle and twisted to present the seal. These tops give a very presentable finish to the bottle of fruit wine.

For the fruit wine maker

The home wine maker may use any bottle as the shape does not affect the taste of the finished product. The exception is with sparkling wine where a thicker walled 900 g bottle should be used to handle the excess and variable pressure from insitu fermentation. Note that bottles of cheaper commercial sparkling wine that have been carbonated may be in a lesser weight bottle (less strong) because of the control of pressure in the bottling process.

Having gone through the effort of making a wine some thought should be given to labelling the product. Printable, self adhesive labels are available in a variety of sizes and colours from office supply companies. The manufactures of labels also provide software that can be used to make quiet professional looking labels. The requirements for commercial labelling of products are strict but the home wine maker is free to use his imagination.