Wine bottle

A wine bottle is a bottle, generally a glass bottle, that is used for holding wine. Some wines are fermented in the bottle while others are bottled only after fermentation. Recently the bottle has become a standard unit of volume to describe sales in the wine industry, measuring 750 millilitres (26.40 imp fl oz; 25.36 US fl oz). Wine bottles are produced, however, in a variety of volumes and shapes.[1]

The transparent green of a typical wine bottle
A square wine bottle

Wine bottles are traditionally sealed with a cork, but screw-top caps are becoming popular, and there are several other methods used to seal a bottle.[2][3][4]


Many traditional wine bottle sizes are named for Biblical kings and historical figures.[5] The chart below[6] lists the sizes of various wine bottles in multiples relating to a standard bottle of wine, which is 0.75 litres (0.20 US gal; 0.16 imp gal) (six 125 mL servings). The "wineglassful"—an official unit of the apothecaries' system of weights—is much smaller at 2.5 imp fl oz (71 mL).

Most champagne houses are unable to carry out secondary fermentation in bottles larger than a magnum due to the difficulty in riddling large, heavy bottles. After the secondary fermentation completes, the champagne must be transferred from the magnums into larger bottles, which results in a loss of pressure. Some believe this re-bottling exposes the champagne to greater oxidation and therefore results in an inferior product compared to champagne which remains in the bottle in which it was fermented.[7]

Volume (litres)RatioNameNotesChampagneBordeauxBurgundy
0.18750.25Piccolo"Small" in Italian. Also known as a "quarter bottle", "pony", "snipe" or "split".Yes
0.20.2667QuarterUsed for ChampagneYes[8]
0.250.33ChopineTraditional French unit of volumeYes
0.3750.5Demi"Half" in French. Also known as a "half bottle". Common for ice wineYes "half"[8]YesYes
0.3780.505TenthOne tenth of a US gallon*
0.50.67Also known as a "50 cl bottle". Used for Tokaj, Sauternes, Jerez, as well as several other types of sweet wines, also common for cheaper wines in SwitzerlandYes "demie" or "pinte"[8]
0.50.67Modern PintProposed by the British government [9] [10]Yes (proposed)
0.6200.83ClavelinPrimarily used for vin jaune
0.7571.01FifthOne-fifth of a US gallon* (before 1979)
1.01.33LitrePopular size for Austrian wines
2.253Marie JeanneAlso known as a "tregnum" or "tappit hen" in the port wine tradeYes
3.04Double MagnumYesYesYes
3.04JeroboamBiblical, first king of Northern Kingdom. "Jeroboam" indicates different sizes in different regions of France.[11]Yes[8]YesYes
4.56RehoboamBiblical, first king of separate JudeaYes[8]Yes
5.06.67McKenzieUncommon, primarily found in FranceYes
6.08MethuselahBiblical, oldest manYes[8]Yes
9.012SalmanazarBiblical, Assyrian kingYes[8]YesYes
12.016Balthazar or Belshazzar[12]Balthazar—one of three Wise Men to present gifts at Jesus' nativity; Belshazzar can also denote the co-regent of Babylon during the absence of Nabonidus, who had seized control after several brief reigns following Nebuchadnezzar, for whom the next-larger bottle size is named.Yes[8]YesYes
15.020Nebuchadnezzar[13]Biblical, King of BabylonYes[8]YesYes
18.024MelchiorOne of three Wise Men to present gifts at Jesus' nativityYesYesYes
20.026SolomonBiblical, King of Israel, son of DavidYes[8]
26.2535SovereignReportedly created by Taittinger in 1988 for the launch of the then-world's largest cruise liner Sovereign of the Seas[14]Yes[8]
27.036Primat or Goliath"Primat" likely from the Late Latin prīmās (chief, noble); Goliath—Biblical, killed by DavidYes[8]Yes
30.040Melchizedek or MidasMelchizedek—Biblical, King of Salem; Midas may refer to the mythical king of Phrygia in Greek mythologyYes[8]

* For many years, the US standard (non-metric) wine and liquor bottle was the "fifth", meaning one-fifth of a US gallon, or 25.6 US fluid ounces (757 mL; 26.6 imp fl oz). Some beverages also came in tenth-gallon [12.8 US fluid ounces (379 mL; 13.3 imp fl oz)], eighth-gallon [1 US pint, or 16 US fluid ounces (473 mL; 16.7 imp fl oz)], sixth-gallon [22 US fluid ounces (651 mL; 22.9 imp fl oz)], fourth-gallon [1 US quart, or 32 US fluid ounces (946 mL; 33.3 imp fl oz)], half-gallon [64 US fluid ounces (1,890 mL; 66.6 imp fl oz)] and one-gallon [128 US fluid ounces (3,790 mL; 133 imp fl oz)] sizes.[15] In 1979, the US adopted the metric system for liquor bottles, with the basic wine bottle becoming 750 mL, as in Europe.


Side-by-side comparison of various sizes of champagne bottles (left to right), on the ladder: magnum, full, half, and quarter; on the floor: Balthazar, Salmanazar, Methuselah, and Jeroboam.
Comparison of Standard and McKenzie Bordeaux bottles

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.
  • Schlegel variety, predominantly used in German wine growing regions: similar to Burgundy bottles, but more slender and elongated.
  • 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.
  • German wines from Franconia: the Bocksbeutel bottle.
  • The Chianti and some other Italian wines: the fiasco, a round-bottomed flask encased in a straw basket. This is more often used for everyday table wines; many of the higher-grade Chianti producers have switched to Bordeaux-type bottles.[16]

Many North and South American, South African, and Australasian wine producers select the bottle shape with which they wish to associate their wines. For instance, a producer who believes his wine is similar to Burgundy may choose to bottle his wine in Burgundy-style bottles.

A flat PET bottle and a cardboard carton in which it can be delivered postally

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 Bernkastel-Kues in Germany has a Riesling with a bottle in the shape of a stylized cat.[17] The British company Garçon Wines makes a flat wine bottle from recycled PET which is flat enough to fit through a letterbox and hence can be delivered by post.[18][19]

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.

Most wine bottles standards have a bore (inner neck) diameter of 18.5 mm at the mouth of the bottle and increase to 21 mm before expanding into the full bottle.


Colouration of wine bottles was traditionally helped with protecting certain wines from solar radiation and to ensure wines age appropriately. Over time, regional variations in glass colouration has led to the emergence of "traditional" colours that are associated with certain types of wine. These are not absolute rules, and it is common to find bottle colours that deviate from what might be traditional.[20]

Some examples of traditional colouration include:[20][21]

  • Green for wines from Mosel or Champagne, or Rieslings
  • Darker green glass for Bordeaux wines
  • A lighter "dead leaf" green for Burgandy chardonnays
  • Clearer bottles for wines that are not meant to be aged
  • Amber bottles being more common for white wines

Foils and netting

A paper strip beneath the foil

Commercial corked wine bottles typically have a protective sleeve called a foil (commonly referred to as a "capsule") covering the top of the bottle, the purpose of which is to protect the cork from being gnawed away by rodents or infested with the cork weevil and to serve as collar to catch small drips when pouring. The foil also serves as a decorative element of the bottle's label. Foils were historically made of lead, but research showed that trace amounts of toxic lead could remain on the lip of the bottle and mix with the poured wine,[22] so lead foil wrapping was slowly phased out, and by the 1990s,[23] most foils were made of tin, heat-shrink plastic (polyethylene, PVC), aluminium or polylaminate aluminium.

Sealing wax is sometimes used, or the foil can be omitted entirely.[24] In the US, the FDA officially banned lead foils on domestic and imported wine bottles as of 1996.[25]

Some bottles of wine have a paper strip beneath the foil, as a seal of authenticity, which must be broken before the bottle can be uncorked. Bottles of high-end Rioja wine may have a covering of gold wire netting, Spaniard Camilo Hurtado de Amézaga, Marqués de Riscal founded a winery in Rioja, in 1858, naming it after his own noble title, which had been created in 1708 by Philip V. He produced award-winning wines which became the preferred wines of King Alfonso XII. Camilo Hurtado de Amézaga invented a wire netting that covered his bottle, thereby preventing counterfeiters from substituting the wine, since it was impossible to remove the netting without breaking it. Modern day bottles of Rioja carry a much finer wire netting as a decoration.[26]


An empty (Bordeaux-style) wine bottle with a punt at its base.

A punt, also known as a kick-up, is the dimple at the bottom of a wine bottle. There is no consensus explanation for its purpose. The more commonly cited explanations include:[2]

  • It is a historical remnant from the era when wine bottles were free blown using a blowpipe and pontil. This technique leaves a punt mark on the base of the bottle; by indenting the point where the pontil is attached, this scar would not scratch the table or make the bottle unstable.
  • 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 much/most of it from being poured into the glass; this may be more a historical than a functional attribute since most modern wines contain little or no sediment.[27]
  • It increases the strength of the bottle, allowing it to hold the high pressure of sparkling wine/champagne.[28]
  • It provides a grip for riddling a bottle of sparkling wine manually in the traditional champagne production process.
  • It consumes some volume of the bottle, allowing the bottle to appear larger for the same amount of wine, which may impress the purchaser.[29]
  • In folklore, taverns had a steel pin set vertically in the bar. The empty bottle would be thrust bottom-end down onto this pin, puncturing a hole in the top of the punt, guaranteeing the bottle could not be refilled.
  • It prevents the bottle from resonating as easily, decreasing the likelihood of shattering during transportation.
  • It allows bottles to be more easily stacked end to end.[29]
  • Bottles could be stacked in cargo holds on ships without rolling around and breaking.
  • It makes the bottle easier to clean prior to filling with wine. When a stream of water is injected into the bottle and impacts the punt, it is distributed throughout the bottom of the bottle and removes residues.

Environmental impact

Glass retains its color 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. 1.4 million tons are sent to landfill annually.[30]

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. The average weight of an empty 750 mL wine bottle is 500 g (and can range from 300 to 900 g), which makes the glass 40% of the total weight of the full bottle.[31] 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.[32][33]

Less radically, boxed wine is sold in large, light-weight, foil-lined cardboard containers, though its use has been restricted to cheaper products in the past and as such retains a stigma. Following declining sales of wine boxes in the UK, in 2009 the Office for National Statistics removed them from its Consumer Price Index measure of inflation.[34] Some wine producers are exploring more alternative packagings such as plastic bottles and tetra packs.[35]


  • Jean-Robert Pitte, La bouteille de vin: Histoire d'une révolution, 2013, ISBN 9791021001138

See also

  • Beer bottle  Bottle designed as a container for beer
  • Glass bottle  Bottle made of glass
  • Kenelm Digby  English courtier, diplomat, astrologer and scientist, considered the father of the modern wine bottle


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  2. Johnson, Hugh (2004). The Story of Wine. Sterling Publishing. ISBN 1-84000-972-1.
  3. Jackson, Ron (1997). Conserve Water, Drink Wine: Recollections of a Vinous Voyage of Discovery. Haworth Press. ISBN 1-56022-864-4.
  4. MacNeil, Karen (2001). The Wine Bible. Workman. ISBN 1-56305-434-5.
  5. Philologos (19 July 2017). "Why Are Extremely Large Wine Bottles Named after Biblical Kings? The convoluted story of jeroboams, rehoboams, methuselahs, and more". Mosaic Magazine. Retrieved 20 July 2017.
  6. "Wine 101: Wine Bottle Sizes and Designations". Retrieved 26 November 2014.
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  12. "Balthazar, n.". Oxford English Dictionary. Forms: Also Balthasar, Belshazzar.
  13. Manser, Martin H.; Pickering, David H., eds. (2003). The Facts on File dictionary of classical and biblical allusions. New York, NY: Checkmark Books. p. 257. ISBN 9780816048687.
  14. "Champagne bottle sizes". Retrieved 23 December 2014.
  15. House & Garden, 147:7-12:132
  16. Amerine, M.A.; Singleton, V.L. (1977). Wine: An Introduction (2nd ed.). University of California Press. p. 315.
  17. "Moselland Blue Cat Riesling, Mosel, Germany: prices". Retrieved 23 June 2017.
  18. Smithers, Rebecca (27 February 2019). "Flat wine bottles could cut costs and emissions, says firm". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 July 2019.
  19. Alexander, Saffron (12 January 2017). "Say cheers to the ingenious flat wine bottle that gets delivered straight through your letterbox". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 15 July 2019.
  20. Waters, Christopher (22 June 2021). "Does a wine bottle's colour matter?". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 8 June 2022.
  21. "Hock-Style Wine Bottle". Retrieved 8 June 2022.
  22. Fisher, Lawrence M. (2 August 1991). "Lead Levels in Many Wines Exceed U.S. Standards for Water". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 January 2010.
  23. "CFR – Code of Federal Regulations Title 21". FDA U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved 27 June 2015.
  24. "30 Second Wine Advisor". Retrieved 2 January 2010.
  25. "Justia: 21 C.F.R. § 189.301 Tin-coated lead foils for wine bottles". 8 February 1996. Retrieved 2 January 2010.
  26. "Why Rioja Bottles Are Wrapped in Gold Wire – To Stop Thieves". VinePair. 25 February 2015. Retrieved 23 June 2017.
  27. (MacNeil 2001)
  28. Singh, Magandeep (2005). Wine Wisdom. New Delhi: Penguin Books India. p. 187.
  29. "Punt Wine Bottle Indentation". Retrieved 2 January 2010.
  30. Hickman, Leo (9 May 2006). "Is it OK ... to drink wine?". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 November 2007.
  31. "The WRAP Wine Initiative" (PDF). Retrieved 14 September 2011.
  32. Lamb, Garth. "Carbon copy". Waste Management & Environment. Archived from the original on 31 August 2007. Retrieved 22 November 2007. If wine was imported in bulk vats and then bottled locally, the market for the most beneficial recycling option would increase.
  33. "New Wine Bottle Project" (Press release). British Glass. 15 September 2006. Archived from the original on 21 June 2007. Retrieved 22 November 2007.
  34. "Chicken in the basket of UK goods". BBC. Retrieved 15 November 2013. Wine boxes, MP3 players and rentals from DVD hire shops have been removed to make way, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
  35. "Eco-Smart Cartons". Retrieved 22 June 2017.
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