By the 18th century, different wine regions of Europe invented signature-style bottles to mark their territory as
well to adjust for the needs of their particular region’s wine. The Burgundy-type bottle (red and white Burgundy,
Syrah and Viognier) is shapely with a tapered neck since the Burgundian founding fathers did not need a trap
for dregs like their Bordeaux brothers whose bottle was designed with wide and stern shoulders. Both
Burgundy and Bordeaux styled bottles have a dimple on the bottom called a punt.
The punt at the bottom of a bottle is a deep indentation in a bottle’s butt. It diffuses pressure and helps balance
the gas which is important in Champagne bottles. Still wine bottles do not need a punt, but many producers
keep it as tradition. Punts date to the time that glassblowers produced bottles by hand using a wood stick to
hold the glass from the neck end. After forming the bottle, the glassblower pulled out the stick, creating a
Some producers of Pinot Noir have an astonishingly deep punt. Many years ago, a British study showed that it
was possible to determine the value of the bottle of wine by feeling the depth of its dimple. Previously this was
thought to be an urban myth. Some researchers with nothing better to do actually measured differently priced
bottles of wine. It was shown that more expensive wines had deeper punts. The relationship between depth
and price could be expressed by the equation: price of bottle-punt depth in millimeters + $5.64/4.314. The
homemade depth gauge that was used by researchers to make the measurements was auctioned on eBay.
I went into my own cellar to feel a few punts. I used my two fingers (index and middle) as a depth gauge and
graded the depth of the punt as none, first knuckle and second knuckle. Some punts have a nipple at the depth
of the depression that can slightly affect the measurement. After sampling several bottles, I found that the
scientific results reported by the British researchers are valid but not infallible. Some of my lowly Pinot Noir
wines (for unwanted guests, relatives and cooking) had no dimple at all and a very few had a good-sized punt.
Most Pinot Noir bottles had a one-knuckle punt that seems to be the most common punt size.
When you are at a party you can amaze the crowd by feeling the punt depth and picking out the most
expensive wines. When you are at your local wine retailer, you can wager a bottle of good Pinot Noir on
whether you can tell the more expensive bottle by holding the bottle and subtlety putting you two fingers into
the punt. Just don’t overdo it, people might think you are some kind of weirdo.