The first big clue is the bottle itself:
Bordeaux (the region but also many wines made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc and Merlot). These bottles have high, heavy shoulders - the bottle is shaped this way to trap the sediment the falls out of the wine during aging.
Burgundy (region but also most Pinot Noir, Chardonnay worldwide). These bottle have much more sloped shoulders.
Hoch bottle (Alsace, but Riesling and Gewürztraminer worldwide). This bottle is very tall and narrower.
Rhone Bottle (commonly used for Syrah, Grenache, Mouvedre wines). This bottle is basically a cross between the Burgundy and Champagne bottles - with sloped shoulders and a wide base.
Champagne Bottle (used for sparkling wines worldwide). This bottle is very wide with a deep punt, both of which are needed to compensate for the high pressure carbon dioxide in the bottles which give the wine its fizz.
The next thing to check is the punt - this is the dip in the base of the bottle that allows a waiter to hold the bottle with one hand as he pours the wine. A good punt is expensive to make, so in general, the deeper the punt the better the wine.
Finally, as you open the wine, check the cork . It used to be that screw caps were bad, but thats no longer the case. However, a cheap synthetic cork or a cheap looking natural cork doesn't indicate quality.
By this point you should have a decent idea of what to expect as you prepare to take your first sip. Just don't let this cloud your judgment - with wine, there's always potential for a surprise.
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