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More Wine Tidbits

How the wine bottle got its shape and size.....

  • 5400BC - The first mention of wine dates back to 5,400BC in Samaria. Being drunk was acceptable in those days, as even the gods got drunk.
  • 3100BC-2890BC - Wine stored in amphorae, large pottery vessel stoppered with cloth, leather, cork or clay and mortar.
  • 2000BC - Wine presses and grapes present in Crete, the start of the Greek wine industry.
  • 1500BC - Glass vessels invented by the Syrians. A strand of molten glass is wrapped around a core of sand. The sand is removed after the glass has cooled.
  • 900BC - Wine rations given to soldiers and travellers. Wine imported from other countries in earthenware jugs. Wooden barrels mentioned in Samaria.
  • 550BC - Samaria absorbed into Persia. Salaries some-times paid in wine. Herodotus commented that leaders would often reconsider an opinion made while drunk, but would conversely get drunk to reconsider an opinion made while sober!
  • 300BC - Syrians producing glass "blown" vessels us-ing a blowpipe. This led the way to greater consistency in bottle sizing and more creativity.
  • 300AD - Romans serving wine from blown glass bottles. Glass is great for storing wine but the one problem they have is producing consistent size bottles.
  • 1400AD - Italy is the world leader in glass production. Glass is very fragile from this era. Various sizes and colours are produced. The shape of bottles is changing as well. The original blown balloon shape is moving towards a longer flatter shape that is easier to store. Size is around 700-800ml.
  • 1635AD - Englishman Sir Kenelm Digby becomes the father of the modern wine bottle. By proclamation of King James I all glassmakers stop using wood in their furnaces so as to not deplete the forests. Coal fires produce a hotter flame and a better product. Digby uses a blower to make the furnace even hotter and makes the bottles thicker and stronger along with the benefit of being darker in colour. The bottles now have a fairly consistent neck size that is essential for a cork to seal properly.
  • 1636AD - Illegal to sell wine by the bottle for the next two centuries because of inconsistent bottle sizes. Wine would be measured, poured into the bottle and then corked.
  • 1740AD - Predominant bottle shape is a fat cylinder.
  • 1790AD - The bottle shape has been pretty much finalised. It's a smooth cylinder that can be stored on its side to keep the cork wet. The cork itself was one of the most important parts of maturing wine in the bottle. The Romans used it, then we seemed to lose it for a while and now it's back in full fashion.
  • Mid 1800's - We finally found a way, using a mold to make a standard bottle size, but then couldn't agree on the size itself. Some were 700ml, some 750ml and some up to 800ml.
  • 1894AD - The first wine bottle-making machine appears in Cognac.
  • 1979AD - The United States requires all bottles to be 750ml. The European Union agrees to standardise on 750ml to help with export sales to the US.

* Reproduced with permission from Peter Svans

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