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Dear Dr. Vinny,
My friends and I are having a difference in opinion on why Pinot Noir bottles are shaped differently than other wine bottles. Can you explain the reason for this?
—Jason, New Orleans
Three basic bottle shapes are used (with countless variations on these themes). Bordeaux-style bottles have straight sides and tall shoulders. Burgundy-style bottles, used for many Pinot Noir and Chardonnay bottlings throughout the world, have gently sloping shoulders and are a bit fatter than the Bordeaux style. And the Alsace and Mosel bottle is a thin, tall bottle with very gently sloping shoulders, often used for wines such as Riesling. What all of these bottles have in common is that their shapes allow bottles to be stored horizontally, keeping the cork moist and the seal good.
Why the different shapes? It wasn't until the beginning of the 19th century that wine bottles developed into these modern styles. The theory is that the Burgundy bottle came first, and that its gentle slope was easier for glassblowers to master. It's not known if Bordeaux producers wanted to distinguish their wines from those of Burgundy, or if they just designed a bottle with shoulders to help trap sediment when pouring. Either way, that's the modern reasoning. Plus, it's a great marketing tool.
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