Wine bottle

Wine bottle

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.


The chart below expresses the sizes of various wine bottles in multiples relating to a standard bottle of wine, which is 0.75 litres.

Bottle Name Name's Origin Champagne Bordeaux Burgundy Volume
in Litres
Equivalent standard bottles
Piccoloa "Small" in Italian ¼ n/a n/a 0.1875
Chopine Traditional French unit of volume n/a n/a 0.250
Demib "Half" in French ½ ½ ½ 0.375
Jenniec "White Spirit" in Welsh n/a n/a n/a 0.5
Clavelind n/a n/a n/a 0.620
Standard 1 1 1 0.750
Fifthe One-fifth of a U.S. gallon n/a n/a n/a 0.757
Magnum 2 2 2 1.5
Marie Jeannef n/a 3 n/a 2.25
Double Magnum 4 4 n/a 3.0
Jeroboam Biblical, First king of Northern Kingdom 4 6 4 3.0/4.5
Rehoboam Biblical, First king of separate Judea 6 n/a 6 4.5
Imperial n/a 8 n/a 6.0
Methuselah Biblical, Oldest Man 8 n/a 8 6.0
Salmanazar Biblical, Assyrian King 12 n/a 12 9.0
Balthazar Early Christian folklore, one of the Wise Men 16 16 16 12.0
Nebuchadnezzar Biblical, King of Babylon 20 20 20 15.0
Melchior Early Christian folklore, one of the Wise Men 24 24 24 18.0
Solomon Biblical, King of Israel, Son of David 28 n/a n/a 20.0
Sovereign 33⅓ n/a n/a 25.0
Primat 36 n/a n/a 27.0
Melchizedek Biblical and other middle-east religions 40 n/a n/a 30.0

a Also known as a quarter bottle, pony, snipe or split.
b Also known as a half bottle.
c Also known as a 500ml bottle. Used for Tokaj, Sauternes, Jerez, as well as several other types of sweet wines.
d Primarily used for vin jaune.
e 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, or approximately 757ml. Some beverages also came in half-gallon and one-gallon sizes. In 1979, the U.S. adopted the metric system for wine bottles, with the basic bottle becoming 750ml, as in Europe.
f Also known as a Tregnum or Tappit Hen in the port wine trade.


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.
  • In Germany the Bocksbeutel bottle shape is generally reserved for higher-quality wines from Franconia. (See Frankenwein)

Many North and South American, South African, and Australasian wine producers select the bottle shape they wish to associate their wines with. 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.


The traditional colors 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.

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 (as opposed to a screwcap) have a protective sleeve called a capsule (commonly referred to as a "foil") covering the top of the bottle. Capsules were historically made of lead, and protected the cork from being gnawed away by rodents or infested with cork weevil. Because of research showing that trace amounts of toxic lead could remain on the lip of the bottle and mix with the poured wine , lead capsules (lead foil bottleneck wrappings) were slowly phased out, and by the 1990s , most capsules were made of tin, heat-shrink plastic (polyethylene or PVC), or aluminum. Sealing wax is sometimes used, or the capsule can be omitted entirely, since it is not needed with some modern stoppers In the US, the FDA finally officially banned lead foil capsules on domestic and imported wine bottles as of 1996


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:

  • it is a symbol that the larger the punts the better the wine
  • it is an historical remnant of old-fashioned glass-blowing techniques; by raising the point where the glass-blowers tube is attached, the small imperfection would not scratch the table.
  • 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 it from being poured into the glass;
  • it allows a bottle of sparkling wine to be turned upside-down and then stacked (depending on its shape);
  • it increases the strength of the bottle, allowing it to hold the high pressure of sparkling wine/champagne;
  • it holds the bottles in place on pegs of a conveyor belt as they go through the filling process in manufacturing plants
  • 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)

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. 1.4m tonnes are sent to landfill annually.

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. 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. Less radically, box wine is sold in large-size light cardboard and foil containers; though its use is restricted to cheaper products.

Notes and references

See also

External links

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