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Glass bottles have been used to successfully store wine for centuries with minimal breakages. Yet, more recently I have had a few instances where the bottles of lower-priced wines had broken. I sat down with winemaker Pau Gomez to ask him why some bottles fail so easily and this is what I learned.
Wine bottles do not break easily unless the bottle has a manufacturing flaw or got a hairline crack during the process of filling or transportation. If a wine bottle does fail it is usually just above the base where the glass is the thinnest.
Let’s take a closer look at how strong wine bottles are and the factors that can cause a bottle to break easily.
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Do Wine Bottles Break Easily
I can still remember the first time the question of how easily wine bottles break crossed my mind. I had picked up two bottles of what I’d heard was a good quality wood-matured Californian Chardonnay from my local wine market and was driving home.
About a mile from home, I drove over a bump in the road and heard a dull thump from the trunk followed a short while later by the slightly acidic smell of white wine. The base of the bottle had sheared off neatly from the rest of the bottle.
It took me months to rid my car boot of the smell of oxidized wine. The experience taught me that some wine bottles can break relatively easily and I need to take better care when transporting my wine.
My story had a happy ending. A week later the wine market contacted me to return the wine for an exchange as their batch of bottles had a manufacturing flaw. I explained what had happened and got both my bottles replaced even though one of them had broken and couldn’t be returned.
How Strong Is A Wine Bottle?
According to a study published in the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine in 2009, glass bottles such as those used for both wine and beer can withstand an impact force of 30 joules when full and 40 joules when empty.
When it comes to pressure testing, a wine bottle can withstand pressures of between 12 and 16 bars. The difference between these is that the bottles used for sparkling wine are specifically designed to withstand more pressure than those used for still wines.
The specifications for the bottles used for sparkling wines are set to a minimum of 16 bars, so you can expect manufacturers to exceed this number.
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When it comes to the bottles used for still wine, bottle strength varies depending on the manufacturer and the quality of the glass used.
A wine bottle is weakest just above the base because the walls of most wine bottles are thinnest glass just above the base as a result of how the blow-molding process works.
The bottles for sparkling wines are usually heavier as they have thicker glass walls to withstand the additional pressure.
However, this largely applies to flat-bottomed bottles as bottles with a punt tend to have thicker glass around the entire base area of the bottle.
In this video, you can see a demonstration of the pressure testing of a sparkling wine bottle.
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> Ivation Wine Cooler – Energy-efficient wine cooler for 18 bottles with Wi-fi smart app control cooling system.
> Wine Rack – Beautiful, elegant wood rack for up to 7 bottles and the choice of vertical or horizontal storage.
> Durand Wine Opener – Classic vintage wine opener (we like all these classic staff).
> YouYah Iceberg Wine Decanter – The most beautiful and handy wine decanter we personally use.
> Bormioli Rocco Wine Glasses – A set of eight elegant and traditional wine glasses made in Italy.
> Vintorio Wine Aerator – Simple but really useful wine aerator for a reasonable price.
> The Original Vacu Vin Wine Saver – The best wine saver on the market in a package with two vacuum stoppers and two wine servers.
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How Much Force Does It Take To Break A Bottle?
When it comes to impact forces, a study in the May 2009 Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine has shown that a full bottle can withstand less impact force than an empty bottle.
The test results showed full bottles failing at an average impact force of 30 joules while empty bottles failed at an average of 40 joules.
This study was performed by a group of forensic scientists from the Universities of Berlin and Zurich who were analyzing glass bottles and blunt-force trauma.
Why Does A Wine Bottle Break?
The most common reason for one bottle to break is that there is some sort of a manufacturing flaw present in the bottle at the time that the wine was bottled.
The weakest area on most wine bottles is just above the base of the bottle, especially so with cheaper bottles that are used to bottle less expensive table wines.
Another reason why a glass bottle can break is that at some stage during the course of the bottling process, storage, or transportation the bottle may have bumped against another bottle and picked up a hairline crack.
Such a hairline crack won’t be enough for the wine to leak from the bottle but yet it is still a weakness within the structural integrity of the bottle and this could cause a bottle to break more easily.
What Is The Weakest Part Of A Wine Bottle?
The weakest part of the wine bottle is the area just above the base of the bottle. That is because, in the blow molding process, the area just above the base usually has a thinner layer of glass than any other part of the bottle. This is why bottles often break just about the base.
It’s also true that flat-bottom wine bottles tend to be weaker just above the base than bottles with a punt. In order to create the punt, a greater volume of glass is needed around the entire base of the bottle.
Pau Gomez of the Bodega Mil300 pointed out to me that some of the cheaper flat-bottomed wine bottles have a seam around the base of the bottle as premade bases are attached to the bottles in some manufacturing plants.
Having a seam at the base of the bottle where the two parts of the bottle are bonded creates a line of weakness where a bottle can crack more easily.
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- Ferfil Wine Rack (10 Bottles): Concertina/scissor fold wooden wine rack made of solid, eco-friendly wood.
- Gusto Nostro Wood Wine Rack: Beautiful, elegant design, the possibility of storing up to 7 bottles, and the choice of vertical or horizontal storage.
Can Wine Bottles Crack In The Cold?
Wine bottles can crack in the cold. However, the most common cause for wine bottles to crack in the cold is if the wine bottle has a weakness. The weakness can either be an area where the glass is thinner or the wine bottle has some sort of hairline fracture that ruptures at cold temperatures.
There is a small risk that a wine bottle could crack when placed in the refrigerator. The risk is far greater if you put the bottle in a freezer to chill more quickly, especially if you forget about the bottle and the wine starts freezing inside the bottle.
A wine bottle can also crack when left outside overnight in a car during winter. Therefore, if you are on a road trip and taking your wine with you, it is a better idea to take your wine with you at your overnight stop rather than leave it in the car.
When traveling a long distance and taking wine with you it is a good idea to store your wine in an insulated wine case like this one (available on Amazon). These types of insulated cases for carrying wine work extremely well in protecting your wine from wildly fluctuating outside temperatures which could cause the glass bottles to crack.
Is It Safe To Drink Wine If The Bottle Is Cracked?
It is safe to drink wine from a glass bottle that has cracked, however, you need to ensure that you decant the wine into a decanter or carafe through a sieve as well as through a filter paper-lined funnel.
This is the same as what gets done when you open really antique wine using a pair of port tongs that have been heated over an open flame in order to be able to crack the glass bottle just below the line of the really old cork.
Take a look at the YouTube video and you will see how a sommelier uses a pair of port tongs to open a bottle of wine by breaking the neck of the bottle just below the cork.
Therefore, if it is safe to drink wine where the bottle has been cracked open using a pair of port tongs or for that matter a bottle of champagne that has been opened with a saber then it will be possible to drink wine that comes from a bottle that is being cracked by whatever other means, as long as you take the necessary precaution to make sure that there are no shards of glass in your wine once you’ve poured it for drinking.
In conclusion, I can say that wine bottles do not generally break easily.
Good quality wine bottles require between 12 and 16 bars of pressure to be able to break them or between 30 and 40 joules of energy to create an impact fracture of the bottle. Therefore, unless the bottle has a manufacturing defect or a hairline fracture, that bottle of wine will not break easily.
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