Wine Racks – Where One Size Does Not Fit All
A good rule of thumb when it comes to deciding where and how to keep your wine collection at home is to have a storage solution that will grow with your collection. However, as your tastes evolve and your collection inevitably grows, you will likely find that not every bottle in it is able to call your chosen wine rack home.
Your regular supermarket brands will come in standard sized 750ml bottles; a one-size fits all creation that will fit in any fridge door, wine rack or ice bucket available. More specialist wines, though, will demand extra attention, not least because of their very different bottle shapes and sizes.
We have come a long way from the ancient and somewhat primitive means of wine storage, like clay Amphorae, though many vineyards and winemakers are opting to use more traditional storage methods. However, the history of wine bottling and storage is a long and intriguing one.
A (Very) Brief History of Wine Bottles and Storage
Wine has a rich and interesting history, and it has played a pivotal role in civilisation’s history too; from Ancient cultures like the Greeks, Romans, Phoenicians, and Egyptians to its place in trade and culture throughout the centuries and up to modern day.
As wine evolved, though, so did the practical elements associated with it, such as storage and transport.
Terracotta jars gave way to wooden barrels leading up to the Medieval era, and the cask hung around for a few centuries. However, extended storage in these casks made wine turn to vinegar. So, inspired by the ancient amphorae, the bottle became the storage of choice in the 18th century.
Developments in cork usage (and how to keep wine from spoiling by storing it on its side to keep the cork wet) led to the evolution of the wine bottle itself. For easier side storage, the traditional stout and bulbous shapes gave way to more slender and cylindrical shapes (see the evolution of the port bottle here). These are the bottles we are familiar with today, and it is these bottles that we associate with wines of all kinds.
Here is a quick snapshot of the key moments in wine storage over the last few millennia, until the mid-20th century:
The Romans began using wooden barrels for wine storage
Phoenicians cultivated and traded wine, exporting it in ceramic jugs
The first recorded use of glass bottles for wine (cork stoppers also emerged)
The world was introduced to the modern bottle shape
Advances with refrigeration allowed for storage (and thus production) of white wine in warmer climates. Small oak barrels were the storage of choice for New World winemakers
Automated bottling introduced
The Single Bottle Act was introduced in Britain; grocery stores were allowed to sell wine in glass bottles
Following the “bag in a box” being patented in 1956, boxed wine was first invented
Metal twist-off caps introduced as an alternative to traditional corks
We can see that over time, wine storage has moved towards convenience, with special care taken not to compromise on the quality of the wine.
The most recent development in the storage of wine itself is the bag in a box, on which opinions are still divided, with some saying it is crude and others arguing it is the ideal solution to oxygenation. So, for now, to the vast majority of us, wine means bottle.