Wine has to do with trust. If you saw wine in an olive oil or balsamic vinegar bottle, you would probably be surprised and confused. While their shapes would stand out on a shelf, they would not meet your expectations nor stimulate the appropriate aromatic or taste sensations.
When I was choosing bottles for my wines, I wanted to do everything possible to offer an aesthetic experience. I was very mindful of creating an honest product that the consumer could trust. I didn’t want the consumer to feel misguided. I didn’t want the consumer to feel embarrassed about choosing the wrong wine.
I considered the three basic shapes of wine bottles – Bordeaux, Burgundy and Flûte (or Hock). The silhouette of a Bordeaux bottle has high shoulders and a long straight neck to hold a sturdy cork. A Burgundy bottle has sloped shoulders, traditionally considered to be more feminine. A flûte is tall and slim, with flowing shoulders. Similarly, you could easily recognize and make associations with a Champagne bottle with its larger-diameter base, sloped shoulders, thick glass and foil-wrapped cork or Port with its slightly swollen neck and tapered bottle. While a few companies have created beautiful iconic bottles, such as Domaine Ott for its rosé, the cost is extraordinarily high for a small and it is not easy for a wine shop to fit a custom bottle into its display racks. Bouké Red Wine is a blend of Bordeaux grapes, and I chose a Bordeaux bottle for the family of Bouké Red, White and Rosé. For Bouké Perlant, a lightly effervescent wine made from Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir, I chose a brown flûte to indicate the wine’s character and style.
There are three basic colors of wine bottles – flint (clear), green and brown, and on rare occasions you will see a blue bottle. Flint shows off a wine’s color, so important to one’s first impression of a wine. Flint is usually used for rosé, Blanc de Noir Champagne (white sparkling wine made from gently pressed red grapes and minimally extracted color from their skins), or a fresh and young white wine. Green and brown bottles are commonly used for both red and white wines, and to protect wine from ultra-violet light and oxidation. If left in a sunny shop window, an unprotected wine could eventually smell like cabbage. Brown bottles are used in the Rhine or Alsace, which are known for aromatic white wines, and like sunglasses, brown glass offers a bit more protection than green.
On the cork versus screwcap dilemma, I wanted to retain the excitement and ceremony of natural cork. I don’t care for plastic corks – they look and feel cheap to me. I started with natural cork, and gradually switched to screwcaps for all but the dessert wines. If I were producing wines meant to age for ten plus years, I would retain cork for all of my wines. After all, cork has a superb 400-year track record for age-worthy wines. But for fresh, fruit-forward wine, even a 1% risk of corkage (wine with a moldy, musty scent and slight discoloration), it is not worth the benefits. From a restaurant’s point of view, there are equal arguments for presenting a cork at the table in the dining room and ease of opening bottles with screwcaps at a busy bar. For the consumer, there are equal arguments for instilling confidence in the quality of a bottle sealed with a cork versus providing the convenience of simply twisting the bottle open when outdoors.
I gave a great deal of thought to how creative and how traditional should the bottles be. Recognition at a wine shop is key, where visual presentation can inspire an initial purchase. Ultimately, I chose traditional bottle shapes and bottle colors, but took an innovative, contemporary approach to the label.