A look at the evolution of wine containers

Wine containers have evolved over thousands of years. Let’s examine.

Earthenware provided the earliest containers – the amphora and kvevri are the most familiar. They are still used today to make wine, especially in Italy, Georgia (the country) and Croatia.

Sheep’s bladders – wineskins – were the equivalent of today’s bottle of wine. They are referenced in the New Testament books of Matthew, Mark and Luke.

The Romans seem to have invented the oak wine barrel. They were inspired by the Gauls, who used barrels to store and transport beer. The Roman breakthrough was realizing that oak had a particularly positive impact on wine.

Glass wine bottles appeared in the 1600s. The first bottles had fat bottoms and short necks. Over time, the necks got longer and the bottoms got thinner. In 1821, Rickets of Bristol received a patent for a machine capable of making identically sized bottles in roughly the shape we recognize today.

While glass bottles still dominate, today wine also comes in plastic bags in cartons, plastic bottles, cans and aseptic packaging.

The cork developed alongside glass bottles, but it wasn’t until the late 1700s that someone invented a handy corkscrew. A renewable resource, cork is the bark of the cork oak that can be harvested approximately every nine years. Cork oaks can reach 60 feet tall and 12 feet in circumference and live 200 years.

When demand for wine soared in the late 20th century, overworked cork producers delivered TCA-contaminated cork, producing “corked wine”. The cork industry is successfully tackling the problem, but the door has been opened to alternative closures. Today there are composite corks, synthetic corks, screw caps and crown corks.

Interesting information:

• Champagne bottles could explode when follow-up fermentation occurred until the British developed stronger glass by using coal to reach higher glass-making temperatures. The pressure inside a bottle of sparkling wine is around 90 psi, which is three times the pressure of your car’s tires.

• The punt—that indentation in the base of the bottle—was there to add strength to the bottom of the bottle. With the improvement in glass making, large boats are no longer necessary, but traditions die hard in the world of wine.

• Aluminum foil covering the top of the bottle once discouraged vermin in wine cellars from eating the cork. Like the punt, no longer necessary, but the tradition remains.

Last turn: You cannot run through a campsite. You can only run, because these are past tents. Wine time.

Email: [email protected] Newsletter: gusclemens.substack.com. Website: gusclemensonwine.com. Facebook: Gus Clemens on wine. Twitter: @gusclemens.

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