Wine as a Weapon

Did anyone see the recent news clip about the woman in Oak Forest who whacked a burglar over the head with a wine bottle (twice) causing him to flee her mother’s house?

After reading that everyone was ok, my next thought was what kind of wine bottle would work best if you found yourself in that situation and, more broadly, I started thinking about the many uniquely shaped wine bottles out there.

Bottles come in all shapes and sizes with the most commonly seen bottle holding 25.3 ounces (5 glasses or 750mL).  There are other standard sizes too such as the magnum (holds 2 bottles), Jeroboam (holds 4 bottles), and on up to the staggering Sovereign (holds 34 bottles).  However the largest format bottles aren’t seen much as they are hard to make, handle, and store.

Among the standard bottles, the most commonly seen shapes are the Bordeaux bottle, the Burgundy bottle, and the Germanic/Alsatian flute.  The Bordeaux bottle has high shoulders on it and is often used for Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chenin Blanc. The Burgundy bottle has sloping sides and is often seen with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  A taller version of the Burgundy-shaped bottle is used for Rhône wines like Syrah.  The flute is commonly used for wines from Alsace, France, and Germany.  These are just generalizations and you’ll see many variations of everything out there.

There are also different weights and thicknesses of the same shape.  For example, some of the premium Cabernet Sauvignon bottles are quite heavy (closer to 4 pounds, 3 ounces per bottle versus the standard 2 pounds, 12 ounce bottle).  Glen Carlou from South Africa and Ca’ Momi from Napa (both excellent Cabernets) are two examples of thicker-glassed bottles. These are readily identifiable when you try to put them in your wine rack and they don’t fit or they lay awkwardly against other bottles.


The rationale behind these bigger bottles is the producer’s belief that a heavier bottle translates to better quality wine.  This perception is also held by many consumers.  While there may be a correlation if the willingness to invest in the wine translates to other elements of the vineyard and wine-making, a heavier bottle alone does not impart better quality.   These bottles have fallen out of favor somewhat due to increased focus on environmental concerns and reducing the carbon footprint when transporting wines.  Heavier bottles consume more resources and cost more to ship.  However in a robbery attempt, they may be the weapon of choice.

Beyond these standard sizes and shapes, there are many other bottles unique to the wine or producer.  These can be fun to look for and sometimes even keep once the wine is consumed.

One example is the Travaglini wine from Piedmont, Italy.  This bottle is immediately identifiable by its squarish shape up to the neck and its rather heavy bottom.  Not only is the bottle unique, the Travaglini is also a lovely Nebbiolo wine from Gattinara, a region just north of Barolo.  Gattinara is slightly cooler than Barolo which means the famous Nebbiolo tannins can take even longer to tame. So you can keep this bottle around for quite some time and, at $28, it’s not a daily drinker anyway.


The clavelin is another interesting bottle shape and is used exclusively for Vin Jaune.  Vin Jaune is a rare and special wine from Jura, France that spends 6 years aging in a barrel under a film of yeast.  This process creates aromas and flavors somewhat similar to a Fino Sherry (think nuts and acetaldehyde character).  The Savagnin grape used to make Vin Jaune contributes flavors of spice and hazelnut backed by firm acidity.  Such a rare wine deserves its own bottle and that’s where the stout and round clavelin comes in.  Made specifically for Vin Jaune, this bottle holds 22 ounces versus the usual 25.3 in a standard wine bottle.  You may also see the clavelin in a half bottle size such as the one below.


Many rosés are packaged in beautiful bottles, particularly those from Côtes de Provence, France.  The bottles have an almost curvy shape hence the name “corset”.  Mas Fleurey Rosé is one example.

Another unique rosé bottle is J. P. Chenet.  This bottle has a slight curve to it but it also tilts to the right.  It was designed by Joseph Helfrich in 1984 and he named it Joséphine.  The wine itself is a lovely rosé made of 70% Grenache and 30% Cinsault grapes (typical of southern France). Fresh and fruity with notes of strawberry and raspberry, it’s a perfect summer drink.  Most of the bottles made from this producer feature the same tilting bottle (except for the sparkling wine) so you can try any grape you like and still get the cool bottle.

Back to our burglar, when I was perusing various wine bottles, I came across Tommy Guns Vodka which is made at a Chicago-based distillery and packaged in a bottle shaped as a Prohibition-era tommy gun.  So I guess the Oak Forest woman is not the only one thinking of wine (or in this case vodka) as a weapon.

P.S. If you’re wondering how two different-sized bottles show the same volume of 750 mL on the label, the riddle is often solved by looking at the punt.  The punt is the indentation at the bottom of the bottle that varies in size.

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