Question from Sherry: Nancy, my husband said that you are the only one he trusts with this question. What is the purpose of a punt in a wine bottle? Thank you so very much!Reply: Thanks, Sherry! I’d better watch that I don’t get a big head! Sherry’s asking about the dimple in the bottom of the bottle – it’s also called a “kick-up”. As far as I can tell, at this point in wine’s history, there’s no reason at all for the bottle to have a punt other than marketing. The punt makes the bottle look bigger and also adds weight so it feels more substantial in your hand – you think maybe it’s worth that extra dollar or two… One of the many things I love about wine is that it brings together so many interests: History, art, religion, economics… Antique glass collectors will know that the punt is all about history. The term is short for the “punty”, or the pontil rod used in free-hand glass blowing. This wooden tool was attached to the base of the hot bottle while it was being blown from the other end. When the punty was broken off, after the glass cooled, it left a “pontil scar”. If they attempted to make the bottom of the bottle completely flat, it often came out slightly convex and the bottle would tip, so they went ahead and pushed it in a little, forming the punt, to give the bottle stability. This also assures that the scar won’t scratch the table. These days, collectors look for the pontil scar on the bottom of old glass vases and perfume bottles as a mark of authenticity. We still try to justify its existence in numerous ways.
One story that rings true is that, in the old days, when the glass wasn’t reliably strong the punt helped to offset the approximately six atmospheres of pressure inside a bottle of Champagne when the wine went through its second fermentation.
Here’s a nice bit of trivia for you: According to Hugh Johnson, 80% of the 1828 vintage of Champagne was lost to explosions! By now, it’s no longer an issue. But, what would a bottle of Champagne be without the punt????!!!
Also related to the bubbly stuff, it was traditional to stack the bottles “en point” – nose down so the neck of one bottle rested in the punt of the bottle below it before disgorgement. This is quite rare today.
And still, yet, related to fizzy wine, don’t you just love it when the sommelier pours for you, ever so slowly, his thumb in the punt, the label up? Very elegant!
For still wine, the punt can be a good sediment catcher if you stand the bottle up for several hours before decanting it. There’s no evidence that that was the original intention, but there’s a purpose for you!
Some people are so paranoid that they think the punt is there to disguise the fact that there’s less wine than normal in there. Sheesh! There are laws about that stuff, so no commercial winery is going to take that sort of risk! I guess that’s about it – a long answer to a short question. Thanks for writing!
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