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

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

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

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

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.


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 


Three Years in the Cellar!

Issue #36 March 2022

Photo by Julia Volk on Pexels.com

This issue marks the 36th month we’ve gotten together for the ever-so-important task of broadening our ‘affordable’ wine horizons. We’ve covered a lot of ground, stepping from the clay soils of Rioja to the sandy earth of South Africa to the loam of Napa.

We’ve welcomed wines and visited wineries from the regions of Mendoza and Patagonia in Argentina. We tasted from New Zealand and Bulgaria and from Bairrada and Douro in Portugal. We went to Burgundy, Alsace, Loire, Cahors, Rousillion, Rhone and Languedoc in France. And Puglia, Veneto, Montepulciano, Trentino, Tuscany, Campania and Sicily in Italy. Spain came to our table with wines from Cariñena, Valencia, La Mancha and Rioja. We sipped from Chile’s Casablanca and Maipo Valleys. And there was California, with bottles from Napa and Sonoma. We also visited Swartland in South Africa. And we popped corks from Niagara, Kelowna, Washington, the Barossa Valley in South Australia, the Willamette Valley in Oregon, Hungary, Austria, Georgia and Uruguay. 

That’s a heck of a lot of grapes, plenty of corks and more than a couple of Tylenol.  

But while reminding us of the places we’ve been on our wine travels, that well-travelled list serves as inspiration to seek out wines from regions we haven’t yet been. 

So, this month we’ll celebrate the visits we’ve had (there’s some bubbly in our future).  We’ll get to know a wine from an up-and-coming locale that until now has managed to escape our attention. And we’ll pay tribute to one of our best finds from the last three years. 

Welcome back to the cellar.

As promised, our little anniversary deserves a little bubbly. And look what I found down here in the cellar! This is a very nice sparkler from Trento, Italy.

Ferrari Brut Sparkling
Trento, Italy
750 mL bottle VINTAGES#:  352153

The Brut in this Ferrari Brut means it is the driest classification of Champagne. While not by definition a ‘Champagne’, this is a very tasty sparkling wine indeed. Perfect for an aperitif and a toast. So, cheers and thanks for visiting the cellar every month.

Now, on to that up-and-coming region I mentioned. Pelee Island; is located in the western basin of Lake Erie, 30 km south of Leamington. This 42 square kilometre gem is the southernmost inhabited place in Canada. 

But actually, Pelee Island is one of Canada’s oldest grape-growing and wine-making regions. One of the first wineries in Canada was built on the island in 1866. It would become The Pelee Island Wine and Vineyards Company in 1877.

By 1890 there were 41 wineries in Canada, 23 located in the corridor between Windsor and Pelee Island. Grapes had become one of the major crops on the mainland, as well as on the island.

However, WWI brought an end to the Pelee Island Wine and Vineyard Company. The war and European competition caused a major decline in our wine market. The winery ceased operations in 1916.

Grape growing and winemaking disappeared for over half a century until 1979 when grapes were reintroduced to the island and the Pelee Island Winery was established.

Which brings us to our next bottle.

Pelee Island Pinot Noir Reserve
Ontario, Canada
750 mL bottle LCBO#:  458521

Not only does this bottle of Pelee Island Pinot Noir Reserve boast a very attractive label, but it also contains a very drinkable wine. It pours with pinot noir trademark transparency; glistening in ruby with aromas of earthy raspberry and a lick of leather. 

As for flavour, we’re treated to tastes of red berries, cherries, pomegranate, and I detect a slight refreshing effervescence.

It has me convinced that everyone should make a Point of going to Pelee. 

I recently got some delicious intel on this next wine from a good friend and loyal Affordable Cellar Dweller.

Finagra Alandra
750 mL bottle LCBO#:  89961
$8.45 Portugal

Thanks to Brian for the tip and these thoughts:

“I was looking for an affordable red and often go to Spanish regions – however I have been exploring Portuguese wines and came upon this plonk. I picked it up – then put it down – then picked it up – so I guess it picked me. 

I was not disappointed. This wine is balanced with good tannins and a slight earthiness. This is a great everyday wine that needs a bit of oxygen to bring out the flavour. I tend to high pour this kind of wine to give it air.” 

I guess if Brian likes to ‘high pour’ his wine, he must have a steady hand and good aim. But can he do it with a Champagne flute?

As I mentioned, for this three-year anniversary issue, I’m pulling out a bottle from the archives; one of our best finds. It was good then and it is now. Here’s what we said about it back in January of 2020.  

“I hope you agree that finding this bottle on the LCBO’s regular listing shelves is a little like striking gold. Barone Montalto comes to the cellar from the land of a rather famous family, the Mafia.” 

Barone Montalto 
Sicily, Italy
Nero D’Avola Cabernet Ter Sicilane IGT
750 mL bottle LCBO#:  621151

“This Sicilian steal is inky and dark like an alley in Palermo at midnight. But just follow your nose to find its soft essences of berries. It’s a tannic titan with lots of smooth and delicious dark berry flavour. Barone Montalto is no Rothschild but it’s a perfect house wine and great for a relaxed family dinner. Any family.” 

Well, there we have it. Issue #36 is in the books. I hope you enjoyed getting together once again around the old, oak tasting table down here in the Affordable Cellar. 

I certainly did.

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


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