Heavy feels classy: Marketers know how bottle weight influences perceptions of quality. Photo: Tamara Voninski
I notice a lot of wine bottles are heavier than they used to be. Is there a technical reason for this, or is it just fashion?
It's no accident that the door of a luxury car shuts with a satisfying thud instead of a tinny bang, or that the casing of a Paris designer lipstick contains a weight to make it heavier than a supermarket cheapie. Although we like cashmere jumpers and Panama hats to be feather-light, we more often associate quality with weight.
Wine, for what reason I don't know, falls into the ''heavy feels classy'' category. Late last year, the British Daily Telegraph reported on research that found heavier bottles tended to be more expensive, and drinkers classed as ''average consumers'' were more likely to be influenced by bottle weight than ''collectors'' or wine professionals. It seems the collectors and ''experts'' were less interested in the bottle than in the quality of the actual wine.
Marketers know how bottle weight influences perceptions of quality. And winemakers, like new parents, are receptive to the notion that their creation is so beautiful and unique that standard packaging couldn't do it justice. Why put your baby in an ordinary jumpsuit when it deserves designer gear? So you're right: in the middle-to-high-ish price range, during the past decade or thereabouts, the wet stuff does increasingly seem to come in heavier bottles. The glass is often thicker than you would find in a standard bottle, the shape might be more rounded or angular than usual, and the indent at the base deeper.
Technical reasons? Some suggest thicker glass makes for better ageing. I'm not among them. Many of the world's most prized cellaring wines come in standard bottles that have stood the test of time.
This trend to muscled-up bottles has its critics. It's hard on wine waiters' wrists. The bottles can be awkward to fit in standard wine racks. And those heavy bottles use more resources to make and more fuel to transport. The only wine bottle that really needs to be heavy is a champagne bottle, because it contains gas under pressure.
Bear in mind that those weighty bottles generally cost the wine producer more than standard ones. When you choose to shell out more for a bottle like this, it won't necessarily mean you're paying for better wine inside it. The extra dollars on the price tag are as likely to reflect the higher cost of packaging. Only pay more if you're confident the wine is as spiffy as the bottle.