Wine Talk

Snooth User: EMark

Why Punted Bottles

Posted by EMark, Feb 18, 2013.

I'm sitting around on this President's Day holiday (banks are closed, no postal delivery, stock markets are closed), and this popped into my mind.  My recollection is that 30 or so years ago the only wine bottles that had punts in their bottom where for Champagne or other sparkling wines.  Then punts started appearing in all kinds of still wines.  Now, the only wine bottles that do not have punts are the very, very low dollar offerings.  When I say low, low dollar I'm talking less than $3.00.

So, why is that?  Well, the internet can answer a lot of questions.  I found this at OregonWines.com:

Why do some bottles have dimples in the bottom?

Presumably, the Oregon wine industry is OK with my pasting their answer here:

1. The angle of a punt allows sediment in a wine bottle to settle down into a tight space around the base, preventing the sediment from being disturbed and released back into the wine as it is poured into a glass.

Really?  I usually find sediment in aged wines--i.e., ones that have be laying on their side for a few years.  When I pull them out of storage, I do let them stand upright for a while to try to let any sediment fall to the bottom of the bottle.  I can't say that I've done any side-by-side test (and the only such test I can imagine is the same wine bottled in two different types of bottles stored next to each other), but in all honesty I've never observed any ease of preventing the sediment being poured out of punted bottles.  What do you think?

2. A punt makes it easier to hold a wine bottle - as well as pour from it - with one hand: One holds the wine bottle from the base, placing the thumb into the middle of the punt, and firmly gripping the back side of the bottle with the remaining four fingers.

Get real.  They are saying that this technique is easier than holding the trunk of the bottle between your thumb and fingers?  Not only do I not think it is easier, I would argue that it is more difficult.  How do you pick up a bottle and get it into that position with one hand?  You have to pick it up with one (presumably, your weaker) hand, and transfer it to your other.  You might make the case that it shows some flair.  So, it gives waiters and sommelier's a chance to show off. 

3. Punts create a stable surface on which to stand a wine bottle. Historically, when flat-bottomed bottles were hand-blown or produced with early casts, they would sometimes result in deformities or bumps on the bottom - which would prevent the bottle from standing up straight, and make it prone to tip over. With the use of a punt, wine bottles could have a stable, circular base on which to stand - and any deformities found in the center of the base would be 'pushed' up into the punt, where they would be hidden from view, as well as prevented from upsetting the bottle.

Well, I guess that makes sense, except for the fact that I think that modern manufacturing pretty much eliminates this supposed problem.

4. Punts add strength to the base of larger bottles, especially champagne-style bottles which hold wine under pressure. A solid, thicker base, with greater surface area with which to handle the force from the wine, ensures the bottle will not burst from the pressure.

Yes, that makes sense.  Sparkling wines must be stored in bottles that have the strength to resist the internal pressure.  Not so with still wines.

However, I can vouch for the benefit of the added strength of these bottles.  I have, more than once I'm embarrassed to say, dropped bottles of wine on my cement garage floor and had them survive.  I have also broken more than one bottle.  So it is not a sure thing. 

5. Punts add style and flair to a bottle's design. The punt adds a sleek rounded shape to the overall composition of the bottle.

Ding, ding, ding, ding.  I think we have a winner here.  Once more fashion dictates form.

So, can anybody think of any reason why the industry has intentionally increased the cost of producing and shipping their product?

 

 

 

 

Replies

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Reply by gregt, Feb 18, 2013.

I don't know that they've increased the shipping costs all that much by having a punt, but I do know that some people object to what looks like a "cheap" bottle with a minimal punt. Never bothered me at all and I never even noticed frankly, until it was pointed out to me that a particular bottle looked cheap for that reason.

I thought it was strange to care in any way, but apparently people do.

A lot of times when they increase the punt they also increase the shoulder height. That's mostly OK as far as storage goes, and it doesn't add all that much weight, but sometimes in the Rhone-shaped bottles they increase the circumference of the bottle as well. That also increases the weight and makes it a complete pain.

Personally, I'm all for cheaper-is-better when it comes to packaging. I don't care if the wine comes in a wooden crate and I don't care if it's nicely wrapped. I only care about what's in the bottle. But I guess if you're selling, you go for every trick possible.

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Feb 18, 2013.

Nothing I like better than getting an offer for a wine in OWC (Original Wooden Case).  Talk about wasteful!  Of course, when the wine comes from some collector's cellar who is now selling it at a loss, that makes the whole status thing so much more delicious.

Plainly, the deep punt has NOTHING to do with imperfectly flat bottoms to the bottles because, as EMark noted, it's become more common to have significant punt in the last fifteen to twenty years and, as the son of a ceramic engineer, I can tell you the problems of bottle manufacture have been solved for a lot longer than that.  (You might recall also that many things were made into bottles--fiaschi, from which we get the word fiasco--when they turned out to unsuitable as vases or other decorative objects. Standards for what works as a bottle aren't that high and need not be.)

I don't buy the sediment thing at all.  Actually, the punt would tend to agitate the sediment as you tipped the wine, more than if it just slid gently down the now angled flat bottom towards the other side.  In fact, the punt would launch the sediment into the wine.  I have yet to see a punt designed as a trap.  Besides, aren't we storing all those deep-punted bottles on their sides to keep the extra long corks wet? ;-)

Nope, the only good reason for a punt (and thicker glass) is to contain the 6 atm of pressure in a bottle of Champagne.  But Champagne is pretty much the paradigm of a perceived luxury good, so then the association of the punt with luxury goods then means that you can extend the punt's "brand" to other wines.  Just recently I had a bottle of Lazy Creek Syrah.  The winery was just sold to Ferrari-Carano, who are plainly trying to position it within their portfolio. Folks, we are talking still wine here, and it had a punt so deep I could almost fit my fist in it, and I can palm a basketball with either hand.  I'm not exaggerating--I wish I had taken a picture. 

In general I have seen bottles get more ostentatious over the years, either by length, thickness of the glass, wide shoulders, anything to stand out in the luxury market.  Even within one winery, the bottles for the upper end wines will be taller or have some taper from shoulder to bottom.  Folks, none of this helps with sediment--you have to tilt the bottle past horizontal no matter what if you want the last drops of wine.  You either pour very carefully and leave a little bit in the bottle, or you have sediment in the wine. Nothing about the bottle will change the basic rules of gravity--a little shoulder or slope can help, but punts, wide shoulders, tall bottles, I am not buying that.

Fun post, EMark--not a topic I've seen discussed much.

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Reply by EMark, Feb 18, 2013.

Greg, with the introduction of the punts, it seems to me that the bottles became heavier.  I think the glass is thicker.  Shipping costs are usually a function of two variables:  distance to ship and weight of the cargo.  It seems to me, and I really don't have numbers to support my cause, that shipping noticeably heavier bottles will incur a noticeably higher shipping cost.

Thinking about the thicker glass makes me wonder if the improved sturdiness of the glass reduces breakage in shipment.

You and Fox do bring up another point about the shape.  Those bottles that are wider at the shoulder than they are at the base look very macho, but they are very annoying to stack.  The ones whose body is cylindrical stack very neatly.

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Reply by outthere, Feb 18, 2013.

I think the worst I have experienced is a 2006 PAX Syrah Ader Springs The Terraces. The punt is 3" deep and the base of the bottle is 3-3/4" diameter. Just a PITA to store and it does not  fit any of my racking in my wine fridges. Only have 2 eft. Should just drink up and forget about them. I hate those bottles. They make Turleys seem tame by comparison.

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Feb 18, 2013.

"They make Turleys seem tame by comparison."

That's saying something, but there are just too many oversized bottles these days.  I have different types of racks for burgs, Rhones (major offenders), and the convenient Bord bottles, which are usually the easiest.  Some bords and cabs are too long, some are oddly shaped, but most are okay. But the Cali Syrah makers really take the cake. with these heavy, deep punted bottles.  Pretty much impossible to put in those crates with the diagonal braces, or most narrow spaced racks that accommodate the cylindrical bottles.  Definitely an appeal to the show-off and not the person who is going to cellar it in a cramped space... in other word, bad news for pack rats like me.

Drink 'em up and move on, OT!

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Reply by gregt, Feb 19, 2013.

Pax was crazy. And guess what - the new wine made by Pax and the wine that was formerly called Pax and is not Donelan BOTH use regular sized Burgundy bottles now in an effort to be more "green".

Turley even came out with a flat-bottom bottle! But it's for a new project, not their big Zins.

Anyhow, the punt uses marginally more glass but the difference in weight is rather trivial in terms of cost and shipping. I remember having these discussions many times when we were talking about labels, etc., and I was always surprised that the cost wasn't really a big concern, even to a producer working on razor thin margins.  It matters more for a $2.99 wine than for anything more expensive and as with everything, a lot has to do with volume purchases.

Here's a site in VA that sells to small producers - the difference between a flat-bottomed Bordeaux bottle and one with a punt is about a buck a case. If you're a marketing manager, that difference may well be worth while - there's a really bad Argentine Malbec on the market that is less than $10 and calls itself a "Gran Reserva" and it comes in a huge ugly bottle. People think they're getting a real discount so they buy it. In NYC you see it case-stacked by the front. Personally, I'd rather have them put he extra few cents into better wine, but I guess something is working!

But I totally agree - cylindrical bottles are the way to go. If it were up to me, I'd mandate that bottles only came in that shape with a minimal punt. Because even though it may not be a big deal for one single winery to eat an extra few dollars in cost, over the entire industry it's a lot of unnecessary energy. We're going to use energy, that's understood. But why use more than necessary?  OF course, if one were to think that way, Las Vegas would simply disappear off the face of the earth so maybe I should stop.

Once again, Ridge is the class act. Haven't changed their bottle shape ever, the label is still clear and to the point, and their shippers are all recycled materials. Doesn't seem like it would be that hard does it? And supposedly beer bottles have become 30% lighter in the last 15 years, an even Coke has lightened up a lot. So wine can do it - but it's all about the "image".

Anyhow, I don't want to send you all reading legal essays, but here's something REALLY interesting.

I thought so anyhow.  New rules about bottles.

http://www.nixonpeabody.com/files/148136_Beverage_Alcohol_Brief_06_05_2012.pdf

Cost of bottles (just for info)

http://www.shorecontainer.com/750ml.aspx

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Reply by outthere, Feb 19, 2013.

Talking with Morgan of Bedrock he would change to Tetra Pack tomorrow if he could afford it. But he does not produce enough wine to take advantage of it. Lots of wineries would like to go to non-glass options but for any the pulic stigma attached to BIB or Tetra Pack is hard to overcome

Joe Donelan was one of excess and it showed on his PAX bottles. The current Donelan wines ae normal Rhone bottles and Pax himself went mainstream on his Wind Gap as well. Another growing trend among green leaning winemakers is the elimination of capsules on their bottles. Bedrock, Wind Gap, Arnot-Roberts and many others are going capsule free. Just another piece of trash that adds nothing useful to the bottle as far as the wine is concerned. Merely aesthetic.

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Reply by JonDerry, Feb 19, 2013.

Wow Tetra Pack is a claim!

I guess it's great for wines made to drink young...how about age-ability?

 

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Feb 19, 2013.

Should be stable as heck--after all, it's what they use for UHT milk and lots of other things.  I'm not convinced it's all that great for the environment, but the move to reduce the amount of glass is a good one.

I just received a couple bottles of Turley's Cab, "The Label," and the bottle feels cheap as heck.  Just like the great BVs and Mondavis of my youth. 

The producers up in Champagne have mutually agreed to cut the weight of the bottle down. Of course, in Canada they pass laws for everything--next thing they'll require that everyone have auto insurance or something.

 

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Reply by EMark, Feb 19, 2013.

The article on the new rules in Ontario is very interesting.  However, I am disappointed in some aspects of them.  In the second paragraph:

Yet there has been reluctance by many vintners to switch to lighter bottles, which is due at least in part to the perception that consumers equate lighter bottles with lower quality.

Then in the first paragraph of the second page:

But there are major exceptions to the rule. First, Champagne and other sparkling wines are exempt, as are “premium” wines (that is, wines with a retail price over $15).

I am OK with the exception for sparklers, but exempting "premium" (i.e., those priced over $15) just perpetuates consumer misconceptions.  Oh, this wine in the big heavy bottle is obviously of better quality than this one in the lightweight bottle.  The cheap wine could have cost $14.98 and the obviously superior wine could have cost $15.10.  More than likely, the two wines are comparable, but by pricing just above the clip level, instead of just below it, it suddenly gets a superior image.  I guess that's why the marketing guy gets the big bucks.

It looks like laws and regulations in Canada are influenced by lobbies just like down here in Baja Canada. 

You know I'm not going to lose sleep about any of this.  It's just interesting.

The price sheet was also very interesting.  Thanks, Greg.

 

 

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Feb 19, 2013.

Um, anything over $15 is premium?

Pretty much swallows the rule whole, that exception.  Plus, as EMark points out, kind of perpetuates the whole thing. 

Bag in Box! Now! I mean, that's got the lowest perception while actually being the best for the wine, right?

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Reply by gregt, Feb 19, 2013.

Interesting about the rules isn't it? What's that about sausage and laws. . .

Weird how something as insignificant as a package changes people's perception of the product inside.

 

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Reply by amour, Feb 25, 2013.

Talking about punts...Very helpful when trying to determine age of wine in absence of other identification...

One can look at the punt and examine it closely to see if it is smooth and quite deep; signs of possibly the old hand-blown glass process.

Punts resulting from mass production of modern era are different.


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