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The Punt: the Dimple in the Wine Bottle's Bottom

by Andrew McNaughton

You have your wine and are admiring the bottle. So what’s with the dimple in the bottle’s base? The first reaction of most people is it’s to help sustain the pressure of sparkling wines. There’s some degree of credibility to that story, but it becomes less so when you discover the ‘real’ reason behind it.

The dimple is termed the ‘punt’, or sometimes the ‘kick-up’, that much seems to be agreed upon. After that it starts to become anybody’s guess and mixture of folklore and technological reasons. The simplest explanation is it stops the bottle toppling over, harking back to a time when bottles were blown using a blowpipe. The method left a ‘punt-mark’, the scar where the blowpipe is snapped off the glasswork. If left on the base of the bottle it would never have sat properly on the table, so it was pushed up into the bottle. The result was a much less wobbly bottle.

Other theories include it was easier for the servants to hold the bottle with their thumbs when they poured the wine. Seems it would have been easier to find servants with ‘grippier’ fingers than redesign the wine bottles? But then it is sooo hard to find good help, such a tiresome business. Similarly, it is also speculated it provides a good grip when bottles of sparkling wine are riddled to remove lees from the bottle. Considering the pittance labourers were once paid, it seems unlikely anyone would have cared if their jobs were even more of a drudge. So why introduce a punt to help them out?

Also on the list of possibilities is the deep trench at the bottom of the bottle allows sediments to accumulate, thereby avoiding gunge being slopped into one’s glass. Again, so tiresome.

Other explanations tend to be coincidental, rather than deliberate. The punt may make the bottles less likely to resonate during transport, reducing the chances of shattering. It also has the effect of making the bottle appear larger (because it is) to compensate for the loss of volume the punt causes.

Rather than a great scientific intrigue behind the punt, it looks like there are only the stories people have created to make the story of wine just that little bit richer. I’ll drink to that.

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