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Have you ever misjudged wine by simply looking at the green bottle? It’s hard to tell if the wine is red, rose, or white if the glass is not clear. There must be an explanation for using colored glass in place of clear in fact, there are four reasons why wine bottles are green, and you will be surprised why.
Wine bottles are predominantly green to prevent oxidation, sunlight, and UV light damage and to allow for more extended storage periods. Green glass is a standard color for all wine bottles originating from the Champagne region in France. Green glass is preferred for red wines in general.
Initially, wine bottles were all clear, just like the bottles used for beer, but soon the consumers realized the wines tasted more like vinegar and not wine. The change to green glass became a standard that is still in effect today.
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Why Are Most Wine Bottles Green?
Wines are prone to oxidation, and green glass helps to prevent the premature onset of this unfortunate reality. A little oxygen is not always for wine, and it should be allowed to breathe a little after opening; however, too much-unwanted exposure to it and the wine will spoil rapidly.
The European wine houses stick with tradition concerning the color of wine bottle glass. They know that the color and shapes of their bottles play a significant role in the wine marketplace. For as long as they have been making wine, most winemakers have stuck with the same style and color bottles.
The Champagne region in France traditionally uses green glass bottles for all wines. Different regions in France, Italy, and Germany will use different shades of green, for example, dead leaf green for Pinot Noir, antique green, or forest green- these are typically reserved for Nebbiolo, Merlot, Sangiovese, Syrah, and Cabernet varieties. Certain white wines are bottled in a more amber shade glass.
Why is Red Wine in Green Bottles
Certain red wines take decades to mature, and to prevent the damage oxidation can cause, red wines are traditionally bottled in dark amber or dead-leaf green bottles. Typically, cellars are already dark, but any natural light that hits the glass can cause light strike damage.
Wine can sustain irreparable damage from light and sun exposure in a mere 3 hours if bottled in light or clear glass and in 18 hours when bottled in green or amber glass.
Light strike in wine is caused when the B Vitamins in the wine and amino acids react. This is where the stinky, wet wool smell comes from when wine turns bad.
Green and amber glass bottles allow the least amount of light to penetrate, significantly slowing down the oxidation process.
Green glass can still allow up to 70% UV to penetrate, while amber glass for red wine allows only 25% UV to penetrate. The antique green bottle is a combination of green and amber, perfect for bottling and long-term storage of collectible red wines.
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Can You Bottle White Wine in Green Bottle
The integrity of the wine is critical when deciding which color glass to use. Clear bottles seem to be an obvious choice for white wine, but they offer no protection against UV light. In under 3 hours, white wine can become ruined entirely if exposed to direct or fluorescent light.
White wines can be bottled in antique green, half green, French antique green, oak green, UVAG, emerald, or dead-leaf green bottles.
The super flint and half green are more transparent glass and are typically for fast-selling, low-cost wines. Higher-end white wines are preferred in any number of darker green bottles to prevent oxidation and light struck.
Light struck causes the flavors to change, and the taste of the wine becomes more like vinegar. Strings of amino acids may form, and the sediment at the bottom may become more noticeable.
The light that enters the bottle creates a photochemical reaction with the wine’s natural riboflavin, and that’s why the smell is akin to skunk, cooked cabbage, onion, or wet wool.
Does Color of Wine Bottle Matter
The color of the wine bottle is chosen for traditional or aesthetic reasons and to ensure the wine’s longevity. The darker the glass, the less chance the wine has of early oxidation and light strike damage. The darker the glass, the better but not all colors are preferential.
The first account of green glass is in England around 1700 when, by chance, a mixture of minerals such as iron, copper, and chromium was added to clear glass.
The ancient Romans manufactured what they called black glass to carry medicine and wine. It was such a dark, dark olive green that it appeared black.
When choosing a bottle color for your wine, the most crucial consideration is to forecast if the wine is set out for immediate distribution and sales after bottling or if the wine will be stored for a period in a cellar.
The longer the wine is stored, the darker the bottles should be. Some wineries use traditional colors and have done so for centuries.
The wine bottle colors that matter the most are as follows:
- Aquamarine or Blue Glass – A few wine houses have opted for a shade of aquamarine and blue glass to show off their blue wines. A few aquamarines or blue glass wines are Pieroth Blue, Cobalt Blue Moscato, and Schmitt Sohne Blue.
- Bright Green and Blue/Green Glass – With so many variations available, green is a versatile color for wine and has traditionally been used in Italy, France, Greece, and Germany for centuries. Typically red and white wines are bottled in green glass to protect them from oxidation. A few wines you will always find bottled in bright green glass are Vergelegen, Pasarene Emerald, Sancerre, and Clomarin Picpoul de Panet.
- Champagne Green – This classical green is used primarily in the Champagne region of France and has been a tradition for centuries. It provides a reasonably high level of UV protection. The famous Champagne region wines you’ll find bottled in this color green are typically Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier.
- Dead-Leaf Green – This color gives a reasonable level of UV protection. It is a classical, antique color traditionally used for the French Bordeaux-style wines such as Chablis, Chardonnay, Syrah, Pinot Noir, or Aligoté.
- Oak Green – The darkest green of all the wine bottles, this color provides a very high level of UV protection and will typically be used for wines that have been stored for more than 20 years. Wines in this category aged over 20 years are usually Cabernet Sauvignon such as Chateau Lafite Rothchild Pauillac and Merlot such as Chateau Petrus Grand Vin.
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There are wines bottled in various colors other than different shades of green, but shades of amber, brown and red glass are not a conventional choice for wineries. The marketability of green is proven, and like the way wine is made, there is no need to change bottle shape or color.
Apart from the marketability and tradition, green is the best bottle color to protect wine from early oxidation and ruin and allows the slow aging process to take place without interference from humans or technology.
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