We can talk about what is inside a bottle of wine all day. The color, smell, flavors, origin and how much we needed it after that long day at work. What we don’t talk about a whole lot, however, is the physical bottle itself. That beautifully shaped bottle serves a very important purpose, aside from holding the goodness inside, of course. There is a whole lot more to this simple vessel than you might think.
Having parts like a neck and shoulder, we are a lot more like a bottle of wine than we think. Bottles have an entire anatomy to unveil and discover, just like that cat you dissected in high school. (We promise this won’t take any more dark turns, just wanted to keep you on your toes.) Now, let’s get gritty and dive into the two main bottle types:
If you are a fan of reds like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec, or whites such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio, then you are already familiar with the Bordeaux bottle. Also known by the name Claret, this long, lean bottle is usually dark or light green, but it can occasionally be clear when containing white wines.
Pinot Noir, Syrah, Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay lovers have met the beautiful Burgundy bottle. With long, sloping shoulders and a short body (see below), it photographs like a star.
Now that you have gotten acquainted with the different bottle shapes (whether that be from reading the points above or gazing affectionately at them across the dinner table), let’s get to know them from head to toe, or should I say closure to heel:
The closure of a bottle is whatever you must take out in order to drink that heavenly wine waiting inside. This includes natural cork, synthetic cork, a screw cap (aka Stelvin) or whatever you used to try and seal the little remnants of that bottle you opened last night. Visit this post to see the differences between the most popular closures. (link to post with differences–there is an insert we can use for content)
The neck is the sexiest part of a wine bottle. It’s sleek and slender and connects the bottle’s mouth to its shoulder. Typically, most of the neck is hidden by a capsule. Historically, the capsule was used to keep bugs or rodents away from the cork while storing or transporting wine. Luckily, we don’t have to worry about this as much today. The capsule is simply a traditional touch that consumers expect as part of the wine packaging. This metal wrap can have a shiny or matte finish and can be found in a vast array of colors. Designers will usually choose the capsule color and material based on the wine label design, which creates a cohesive and complete product.
Being responsible for connecting the bottle’s neck to its body, the shoulder plays a very important role in a bottle’s anatomy. The shoulder has a slope which varies across different bottle shapes. In a Bordeaux or Claret shaped bottle, the slope is shorter and taller. While a Burgundy bottle has a longer, more dramatic slope. You know those beautiful highlights that catch your eye on a wine bottle when it’s photographed? You can thank the shoulder for that.
Body – Label Panel
The body is the largest part of the bottle, and the portion that holds most of the wine. It’s the section your hand wraps around as you grip the bottle to pour your wine. On the body, the placement and size allotted for the wine label is known as the label panel. This panel showcases all the hard work that is put into designing the label. Here you can find all of the key information about the wine, including its varietal, vintage and appellation.
Punt and Heel
Excuse the seemingly sporty reference, but we’re not talking about football here. The punt is the curved indentation at the bottom of a wine bottle. This feature was originally formed to assist with the glass-molding process, and it helps to the bottle stand upright on a shelf. The soft edge surrounding the punt at the base of the bottle is known as the heel. And with that, we have arrived at the end of our bottle dissection!
Now go grab a bottle and study that anatomy, “for science.”