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by Fred McMillin
for May 28, 1998
The Changing Wine Bottle
1500 B.C.—Hollow glass vessels were invented in the Middle East.
300 A.D.—The Romans used glass bottles for serving wine at the table, but not for storing it.
1400 A.D.—Italy is the leader in glass technology, but its wine bottles are so fragile they are wrapped in straw to avoid breakage.
1635 A.D.—The father of the modern wine bottle, Englishman Sir Kenelm Digby has a hard time getting down to business. At age 20 in Paris, he reported his death and fled to Italy to escape the amorous advances of Queen Marie di Medici. At age 24 he turned successfully to buccaneering in the Mediterranean, capturing vessels from many European countries. In his thirties, back in England, he invents the first thick-walled wine bottle.
1700—The thick-walled vessels are squat decanters with short necks. To store them on their sides, they are placed in beds of sand.
1740—The bottle is changing to a fat cylinder.
1790—The bottle is a modern cylinder which can be stored horizontally, keeping the cork moist, allowing long aging.
1996—The Corbett Canyon Winery introduces a new bottle shape...cylindrical at the top tapering down into a tall, slender, SQUARE shape. It is easier to grip and easier to pour than the less-slender conventional bottles. To try it, buy the Corbett Canyon '94 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.
1994 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
It was illegal to sell wine by the bottle in England for over two centuries, starting in 1636, because of varying bottle capacities. Hence, the purchased wine was measured out, then poured into a bottle and corked. Customers often brought their own bottles. Credits: Oxford Companion to Wine; Hugh Johnson's,Vintage .
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