The Shape of Wine

Issue #42, September 2022

Robert Louis Stevenson once wrote that “wine is bottled poetry.” I think he pretty much nailed it with that thought. But if wine is poetry, surely the unassuming wine bottle deserves a little credit too. Perhaps then, it is music to the eyes. Or how about, glass with class.

Clearly, I’m no Stevenson. 

However, in this issue we’ll taste some wine (of course) but we’ll also take a good look at the many different shaped bottles that we pour our wine from. Before we even see the label, the shape of the bottle gives us a pretty good idea of the type of wine it holds.    

In 1970, The Band released their famous hit ‘The Shape I’m in’. While it was a song with a less than uplifting lyric, that title could also speak for the wines of the world in their glass houses that for a while at least, they call home.

Welcome back to the cellar.

row of bottles - no labels, various colours

They’re tall, short, wide, thin, high-shouldered, and sloped. You can see them when you peruse the shelves at your local wine dispensary. But the question is, why so many different shapes? History may have the answer. 

The three dominant wine bottle shapes out there are those of Burgundy, Bordeaux and Alsace. Oh, and of course, there’s the Champagne bottle. 

A Burgundy bottle with its gently sloping shoulders was created sometime in the 1800s. There is a theory that it was made that way simply because, at the time, it was easier for glassmakers to make. Burgundy producers, the first winemakers to make wines from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, began using these bottles and in time their wines and the classic Burgundy bottle spread around the world. 

Today, most reds with a similar flavour profile to Pinot Noir (light, bright and complex) or Syrah, plus Chardonnay and a few other whites can be found in this shaped bottle.

You’ll be happy to hear, that leads us to the first wine we’ll get to know this month.

And yes, it resides in that elegant Burgundian-styled bottle. It’s a Rosé from Pelee Island. (I’m desperately clinging to our last summery days, so a deliciously crisp Rosé seemed like a good idea). A few months back I was quite impressed with a Pinot Noir from Pelee, so I thought this attractive wine deserved a pour. And I’m glad I did.

Bottle shot of Lola Wine - rose - pink colour Pelee Island Lola Cabernet Franc Rosé 2021

Pelee Island Lola Cabernet Franc Rosé 2021
Pelee Island, Ontario, Canada
750 ml bottle | LCBO# 552497
$16.95

Pelee Island Lola Cabernet Franc Rosé is a glowing, pink sunset in a glass. It treats the nose to fresh strawberries and spice. And it’s a welcome wake-up call for your taste buds after a busy day. Or during a busy day. 

It’s tangy, full of citrus flavours and does a very good job of inviting you to have another sip, or another glass full. I could make a mealy of this wine from Pelee.

It’s another gem from Canada’s southernmost point!

Now on to another bottle shape and our next wine.

The Bordeaux bottle is slim with distinctive, high shoulders. Some experts believe these were created to catch sediment in old Bordeaux while it was being decanted. Or maybe Bordeaux producers just wanted to make it look different than the bottle from their rival region of Burgundy.

In today’s world, this style of the bottle contains of course all Bordeaux wines but also, the wines of Tuscany, Portugal, and Spain; for the most part, wines made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Carménère, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc.

Here in the cellar, we not only have an example of the Bordeaux bottle but it just so happens to contain a fine example of wine from the esteemed region.

Bottle of red wine Château de la Chapelle 2018

Château de la Chapelle 2018
Bordeaux, France
750 ml bottle | LCBO# 25385
$20.95

Let me just say that this Château de la Chapelle 2018 is pure won-der-ful. 

It’s made primarily with Merlot and just 15 percent of the blend is Cabernet Sauvignon. 

Dark, brooding purple in colour with wafts of blackcurrants and ripe cherries and plums. It’s a rich, silky taste bomb with soft, elegant tannins. 

I would definitely grab a few of these to put aside. Wait a sec, I already did.

The third shape we need to talk about is that of the slender, Alsatian bottle. It was created for storing Reisling, but now it holds wines such as Gewurztraminer and Muscadet. Way back, the main transportation route for these wines was along the Rhine river in relatively small river ships. So, bottles of wine needed to be slender in order to fit as many as possible. Or, someone just liked the look of a slim bottle.

At any rate, the wine below looks like a good one. I say, ‘looks like’ because I haven’t had the pleasure of trying this one, yet. So many bottles… 

Mainly, I just wanted to illustrate the bottle.

Bottle of white wine Pierre-Luc Bouchaud Sur Lie Muscadet Sèvre et Maine 2020

Pierre-Luc Bouchaud Sur Lie Muscadet Sèvre et Maine 2020
Loire, France
750 ml bottle | LCBO# 82461
$15.95

With Muscadet, you can expect to taste hints of lemon, lime, and tart apples. It’s typically very dry, very light and extremely refreshing. If you try it before me, let me know what you think.

Okay, so that covers the shapes of things to perhaps come home with you from the wine store. But before we leave the old, oak tasting table for another month, 

I’d like to draw your attention to a beautiful wine we first met back in the June 2020 issue: ‘Marriage Comes to the Cellar’.

Bottle of red wine Bastide Miraflors Syrah/Vieilles Vignes Grenache 2019

Bastide Miraflors Syrah/Vieilles Vignes Grenache 2019
Rousillion, France
750 ml bottle | LCBO# 320499
$19.95 

Well, it’s back at LCBO and well worth the money. Here’s what I had to say two years ago about the 2017 vintage. 

“In the glass, it’s deep, dark and opaque as night in the French county it comes from; Rousillion, just north of Marseille.

One whiff and you’re enveloped with an earthy minerality, black currants, hints of fennel and black licorice. On the tongue, it’s rich, smooth, full-bodied and as cushy as a silk pillow.”

I think I just convinced myself to try it again!

That’s a wrap for this month. But here’s a thought. If you’re at a gathering and everyone is trying to guess the wine that’s been poured, get a peek at the bottle. 

Its shape can help you look like a sommelier. 

See you in the cellar in October. 

Until then, keep your glass of wine close and your friends even closer.

Jim

Thanks to everyone for signing up to my web page where you’ll see this each month as a blog. If you know anyone who is interested in following the newsletter, they just have to visit jimsaffordablecellar.ca to submit their email. They’ll be notified each month, as will you when each new issue is published. And the newsletter is a little more reader-friendly there. Please let me know if you’d like to share some wine you love with the rest of us. roamingbuffalo44@gmail.com 

2 thoughts on “The Shape of Wine

  1. purchased 6 bottles of Château de la Chapelle before reading your review (Vintages magazine also heralded it). Will be buying another 6 this week to lay down. This wine should age very well.

    Like

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