The Handbook

Wine Bottle Decoder

Have you ever noticed how wine comes in different bottle shapes? It turns out there are four basic types of bottles that run the gamut from tall and skinny to heavy and curvaceous. They all contain the same amount of wine—750 milliliters—so why isn't there just one standard size? Like a lot of things when it comes to winemaking, it has something to do with tradition. Over time, the major wine-growing regions developed bottles that best suited their varietals. The shouldered bottles from Bordeaux and Burgundy, for example, both developed a reinforcing indentation at the base of the bottle (known as a punt) to help withstand turbulent trade routes. Of course, while the shape can tell you the type of wine, it can't say anything about the quality of what's inside.



Popularized by Bordeaux, the shoulders were developed to catch sediment. Now used for Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Sauvignon Blanc.



With graceful, flowing lines and a wider base, this is also known as a Burgundy bottle. Pinot Noir, Syrah and Chardonnay are often found in these.



Typically the tallest of the standard shapes found in the US, these slender and lightweight bottles often hold crisp whites like Gewürztraminer and Riesling.



These sloping bottles have a similar shape to the Burgundy bottles, but are made with thicker glass to withstand the pressure of carbonation.

Specialty Bottles


Fortified Wine

These wines, such as Port, Madeira and Sherry, are housed in sturdy bottles with a bulge in the neck to catch sentiment.



Known as a fiasco, this Italian style of bottle has a round body that's partially or completely covered with a close-fitting straw basket.


Dessert Wine

The most varied of bottle shapes, these tend to be much more ornate and often smaller, with custom stamps and seals.