At Cavender Creek Vineyard, there is an impressive fixture, a bottle tree some two meters tall. This is not for growing bottles, but to display a colorful collection of wine bottles.
So, why do wine bottles come in many different colors and shapes? The ancient Egyptians made glass items, and the knowledge spread about how, almost magically, a handful of sand could turn into a transparent jewel or a glass vessel. The oldest known wine bottle with its contents still in place is on display in a museum in Speyer, Germany, and dates back to the 4th century. The glass is slightly greenish and clear glass.
Glass can be colored using small quantities of additives, metals, carbon and so on. In the early 17th century, Vice-Admiral Sir Robert Mansell was granted a royal monopoly on glass production in England. He combined mass production techniques using large glass kilns in Newcastle upon Tyne driven by coal from his nearby mines. As well as cheaper and stronger bottles, the coal coloured the glass brown and black. And this was the colour that wine bottles remained for centuries.
There was a benefit, unrealized at the time – dark colors are better at stopping UV rays. And that light causes wine, especially red, to deteriorate over time.
Over time, a small range of colours have become standard and traditional – dark green for red wines, pale green for whites, amber for German riesling and clear to display the hues of early drinking rose wines.
So what about more unusual bottle colours, like blue, black or even silver? These have no magical properties for improving the wine – they are just an eye-catching bit of brand management. Blue Nun and Black Tower spring to mind.
So, sad to say, most of the bottles on this bottle tree have never really been used to store, transport and age wines.

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