The so called “dent” is actually called a punt and sometimes called a kick-up. As for its purpose, that’s hardly clear. Some say it’s a leftover from long-ago glass-blowing techniques. Others claim that it strengthens the bottle, especially Champagne bottles, which have to endure the pressure of a sparkling wine and with the punt, stack easier upside down, an asset during traditional Champagne making. Others suggest its original purpose was to help a bottle stand up, since bottles didn’t always have flat bottoms. Still some experts believe that red wine is put in bottles with punts because the punt collects sediment and makes an aged red wine easier to decant.
What’s the Oldest Bottle of Wine Ever Discovered?
In a previous issue of The Wine Press we discussed the oldest bottle of “still drinkable” wine, so here’s a twist: what’s the oldest bottle of wine ever discovered with its contents still intact?
In 1867, near the town of Speyer, Germany, builders unearthed two Roman sarcophagi during an excavation in preparation for building a house. The location was once the site of a vineyard. Inside one of the two tombs builders found a bottle of ancient wine with its contents still intact — now mind you that we didn’t say it was drinkable, if you saw a picture of it — you’d know why … yuck! The bottle dates from approximately 325 A.D. The greenish-yellow glass amphora (a jar with two handles, tall with a narrow neck and base used by the ancient Greeks and Romans) has handles formed in the shape of dolphins. On further inspection of the ancient liquid, it was found that some of the thicker, hazier material near the top of the bottle was olive oil. Although corks were in use at that time, they were rare and Roman winemakers preferred to use olive oil. Beneath the olive oil, scientists found liquid that was once someone’s table wine. The olive oil would float on top of the wine and preserved it from oxidation. One might ask how well did this method work? Well, it apparently worked very well; sealing the contents of this bottle for over 1540 years.
We’ve all heard the term “appellation,” but just exactly what does it mean?
Simply put, appellations are nothing more than plots of land, land where grapes are grown. In the United States appellations are also called American Viticultural Areas (AVA). American wineries are now discovering that soil (terroir) or where grapes grow has a measurable effect of the final taste of the wine; they are paying much more attention to their specific appellation. Their European counterparts have long known that grapes are extremely sensitive to their environment; appellations were created to reflect the difference between their growing areas (or environments). There are roughly 125 appellations in the United States and many wineries are now proudly displaying their specific appellation on their label. Appellations read like circles within circles, from the most general to the most specific. For example: appellations can be as large as a country, down to a region then to a district and to a sub-district, then a village and finally most specifically a vineyard. Now when someone asks you about an appellation, you can sound like an expert.
Originally published in our Gold Wine Club's The Wine Press, Calera Wine Company Edition featured in 2005.