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© 2016 Wolfgang Bitterolf
...a blog about the lighter side of wine...



November 5, 2010

The History of Wine Bottles

This is one of those ''to make a long story short'' postings.

Legend has it that glass was first discovered by some ship wrecked Syrian merchants around 1,500 BC; they used natron lumps found on the beach to prop up their pots to cook, and the heat created molten glass. Eventually glass was used to make beads, decorative items and other basically useless stuff. Around 100 BC, the first glass bottles were blown using a blow pipe.

The early glass bottles were very thin walled and fragile and were really not usable to store and transport wine. Nevertheless the Romans tried hard, and the oldest unopened bottle of wine dates back some 1,700 years (left). It is in Speyer, Germany, and the wine is still in it, but I don't want to try it.

Glass making and bottle blowing was an art, and required long training to get better and better at it. The size and shape of the bottles varied greatly and was usually determined by the lung capacity and skills of the bottle maker. Full of pride many bottle makers put a seal on their bottles. Due to the diversity of bottle sizes wine was not sold by the bottle; they were filled from barrels and allowed rich folks to show off they had the money to own a glass bottle.

During the 1600s the thick glass bottle was invented, and together with a cork it was possible to store and ship wine in bottles relatively successfully.

It was not until the early 1,700s that the technique of using a mold was invented, and bottle shape gradually changed from wide to narrow; this made it possible to store wine on its side for aging without oxidation.

The first mass production machines were invented in USA and England around 1880 but did not come into use until 10 years later due to resistance from the glass blowing unions. What else is new?

Bottle sizes were still all over the place until the now worldwide accepted standard of the 0.75 liter bottle was established in 1979. Oddly enough that standard originated in the USA, a non-metric country. Go figure!


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