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Pick up your latest wine purchase and examine the bottle. Besides a long, elegant neck, a screw-capped or corked top, and an eye-catching label, what else do you spot? Hint: check the bottom of your bottle. If you answered a “dimple,” then you just singled out one of the most mysterious features of the wine bottle, the punt.
Though not every wine has a punt in it, many do, and the reason behind the little indent isn’t clear. In fact, there’s no clear consensus as to why the punt is there, but there are plenty of fascinating theories.
There are several simple reasons why wine bottles have a dent in the bottom. For example, one reason is to aid with the pouring of the wine when it is being served at a table for the enjoyment of the dining experience. (The correct way to do this is for the server to insert a thumb in the indentation to allow for service to occur at arm’s length in order to minimize disturbance.)
Another reason is more about the wine itself. Many wines continue to develop in the bottle and this process produces sediments. These fall to the bottom of the bottle over time and form a layer.
With a flat-bottomed bottle, when the wine is poured, this layer is easily disturbed and the poured wine ends up cloudy, spoiling its appearance and sometimes its taste. If there is an indent in the bottom, sediment is deeper with a smaller surface area, thus easier to avoid disturbing.
Continue reading below for more simple reasons why wine bottles have a dent in the bottom!
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What Does the Hole Under a Wine Bottle Mean
The curved wall of the bottle makes for a very strong structure, and the indent (hole) makes the base as strong as the wall. This is what the hole under a wine bottle means.
A second explanation is that during the fermentation process (for Champagne) – the bottles are stacked upside down in order for the solid matter that results from the fermentation to come to rest on the underside of the cork. The hole helps with this.
Bottles used for champagne and other sparkling wines always have a hole for one main reason. The indent is designed to prevent the bottle from exploding.
Some history of this is as follows… Early bottles were blown with slightly rounded bases which made them unstable, so a rod would be inserted while the glass was soft and the base pulled upwards to form the indent or ‘kick’. This gave a more stable base to the bottle.
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What is the Dimple at the Bottom of a Wine Bottle Called
The dimple in the bottom of a wine bottle is called a “punt.” Wine bottles used to be individually blown and hence were spherical, somewhat like Chianti bottles.
The more stable, straight-sided bottles were produced with the aid of an iron rod pressed into the bottom of the bottle while the glass was still workable, leaving this indentation. The iron rod was called a “punto,” and so the indentation it made while rolling the bottle became known as the “punt.”
Historically, punts were a function of wine bottles being made by glassblowers. The seam was pushed up to make sure the bottle could stand upright, and there wasn’t a sharp point of glass on the bottom. It’s also thought that the punt added to the bottle’s structural integrity.
Bottles nowadays are much stronger and machine-made, so the punt is simply part of the wine-bottle tradition, though some say it helps collect the sediment as the wines age.
TIP: If you are interested to know why most wine bottles are green, read this article. Another interesting fact that you may have noticed is that white wines are often in clean bottles. Find out why in this article. Discover why wine bottles are wrapped in plastic wrap in this article. The reason might surprise you!
Why do Wine Bottles Have a Concave Bottom
One reason wine bottles have a concave bottom is that it provides a place for light to “sparkle” – and therefore show off the color of (especially sparkling wine) nicely. And while all sparkling wines have indents, not all still wines do – although most do.
Punts also serve as a reminder that, at one point, glass was handmade. Wine bottles were blown long ago, and the process required an entry and exit point for air.
There’s also a fairly traditional means of cellaring a wine; on its side to keep the cork wet. A lot of racks take advantage of the punt for eye-catching means of aging the stuff.
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Legend has it that in the days of old, the punt helped barkeeps serve as society’s first alcohol monitors. Watering holes would have a wall embedded with steel pins or other sharp objects, and the empties would be thrown against it, piercing the bottles.
This, in a way that seems both overly complicated and delightfully antiquated, ensured that patrons wouldn’t refill their bottles on the sly.
Does a Deeper Punt Mean a Better Wine
Wines in Spain, Chile, South Africa, Peru, Switzerland, Germany, and many different states in the US incorrectly subscribe to the fact that the “deeper the punt, the more expensive the wine.” It is also a fact, however, that expense has nothing to do with taste!
For one thing, unfortunately, some producers of wine know that this is a misconception and therefore exploit the fact, so they add a punt into the bottle so they can charge more for the wine – even though the wine inside the bottle is not actually worth it.
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Nowadays, the punt is no longer a byproduct of handblown glass bottles. While tradition has kept the punt alive, wine drinkers have found ways to give the punt significance whether they’re drinking a $5 Yellowtail or a $500 Bordeaux.
Can You Tell a Good Wine by the Bottom of the Bottle
You cannot tell a good wine by the bottom of the bottle. In fact, saying the punt is a sign of good wine, unfortunately, is sometimes another kind of wine snobbery. There is, however, an explanation as to why one might notice a connection between a punt in a bottle and more expensive wines.
It is because cheaper wines are filtered or whirled in a centrifuge before bottling, avoiding sediment and thus the need for the more expensive punt-bottomed bottles. Many wine buffs consider that wine only achieves its full complexity if allowed to develop without filtering.
Some also speculate as to whether the size of the punt means anything about the wine’s quality. The size of the punt doesn’t mean anything about the quality of the wine inside, but it can be a bit gimmicky because some bottles just look like they’re on steroids, with deep punts and extra-heavy glass.
Pouring from the base of the bottle just looks classy. You’ve seen sommeliers and wine directors pour wine by holding the punt. But on top of the presentation, the punt allows for more efficient storage, transit (especially in seafaring ships), as well as retail display.
Why do Champagne Bottles Have a Dent in the Bottom
The dent in a Champagne bottle is to accommodate the pourer’s thumb, with the fore- and middle fingers placed underneath the bottle so that a minimum of body heat is transferred to the bottle while pouring.
It is also there to was to withstand the high pressure inside the unopened bottle (having an arched, rather than flat, surface) whilst allowing the bottle to stand on a flat surface.
Punts no longer serve a structural function except in bottles of Champagne which have constant pressure inside. In these cases, the punt allows for a more even distribution of pressure.
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When it comes to pressurized wines like Champagne, sparkling, and pet-nat, a good punt can withstand the added intensity of carbon dioxide in a bottle. This is vital for bottle-fermented wines (and beers, too), which count on the sturdier shape to stand up to gas created as the yeast converts sugar into alcohol.
It also gives you a nice gripping area for when you sobering a bottle when the holiday season comes around. That grip is also important for anybody who’s ever made bubbly and engages in the riddling process.
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There are many simple reasons why wine bottles have indentations or “punts” at the bottom. One interesting point is to look at what is not a reason for the punt, even though there are some schools of thought that adhere to this misconception.
The misconception is that there can be less volume (less wine) in a bottle with a punt. However, vintners cannot exploit the punt because the volume of wine is stated on the label.
The law permits a tolerance on individual bottles to allow for variability in the performance of bottling machines, but there is an overriding requirement that the average of all bottles in a batch must not be less than the quantity declared on the label. So for every bottle found to be underfilled, there will be another that is overfilled – with no profit to the vintner.
In case we missed a few reasons why bottles have a dent in the bottom, here are a few more!
Punts Make Your Wine Chill Quicker – A punt at the bottom of a bottle increases surface area, allowing more ice to come into contact with it and thus chilling the liquid inside quicker. Maybe we should indent our beer bottles too?
Punts Catch Sediment – Some believe that the angle of a punt lets sediment collect in a tight area near the base, stopping the sediment from blending back into the wine as it is being poured.
According To Folklore, A Punt Prevented A Bottle From Being Refilled – One tale states that taverns had a vertical steel pin in their bars. When a bottle of wine was consumed, the bottom of it would be punctured with the pins, ensuring that the bottle would not be refilled. Note that while this story is certainly colorful, it doesn’t explain why full bottles of wine contain punts.
Punts Make The Bottle Easier To Clean Before You Fill It With Wine: Think of it this way: it’s often difficult to clean a tall glass evenly. Perhaps this is what glassblowers had in mind when making the punt. When you shoot water into a wine bottle that has a punt, the water is spread more evenly throughout the bottom of the bottle.
Punts Allow Bottles To Be More Easily Organized: Punts allow for more ease when it comes to stacking wine. This makes for a great organizational tip for storing wine.
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