About 6,000 years ago, humans discovered that a tasty drink can be produced by fermenting grapes. Unfortunately, when stored in vessels available at that time, they also found that this delicious vine juice can go bad really fast. It was not until the 17th century that a tightly sealed glass bottle was invented. This genius creation was what allowed us to turn that drink into the matured and intoxicating (no pun intended!) stimulant we now know as wine.
Antique Amphorae For Wine
In Greek antiquity the knowledge of matured wine from well-sealed amphorae was already quite common. The Romans even knew the closure of these vessels by means of corks. However this knowledge, like so many of the achievements of antiquity, was largely lost in the Middle Ages. The wine was therefore stored and sold for many centuries only in barrels and tubs.
The quality and hygiene condition of these containers – sometimes even hoses made of animal skins – made sure that the wine quickly oxidized. This caused wine to lose its aroma. Sometimes it even turned wine into vinegar due to contact with acetobacter aceti bacteria and oxygen! Therefore it was always important to keep the barrels full to minimise contact surface with the air. Either that or they had to drink the wine quickly.
Amphorae – an ancient Greek jar or vase with a large oval body, narrow cylindrical neck, and two handles.
Before The Glass Bottle…
Before the glass bottle was invented, stoneware jugs were used which then slowly evolved to include a narrower and finally closable neck. However tin or wood were used for these early forms of the wine bottle.
Probably starting from the Venetian glassworks, the production of glass wine bottles took place for the first time at the beginning of the 17th century. The material proved to be ideal for wine due to its chemically neutral nature and perfect tightness. However, since glass was at that time a luxury, only nobility and the extremely wealthy could afford glass bottles.
The first bottles of wine were wrapped in raffia – just like the Chianti wine bottle today
The Breakthrough Of The Glass Bottle
Early glass bottles were sealed with knots made of leather or cloth, sealing wax or wooden plugs. The final breakthrough of the wine bottle came only with the rediscovery of cork cut from the bark of Spanish and Portuguese oak trees (Quercus suber). These offered a perfectly airtight and durable closure with their elastic and durable characteristics, thus allowing a slow maturation of the bottle contents.
The wine bottle experienced its breakthrough with the rediscovery of the cork oak.
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