Saturday, July 11, 2015

Hey Bar Bartenders – Why the Punt?

Not long ago I visited Bayfield, Wisconsin a charming town on the shores of Lake Superior. On the flight up I read a magazine article regarding a recent gallop poll which shared insights into the alcohol consumption patterns of Americans. Though beer is by far America’s favorite adult beverage (39% of Americans say they only drink beer), wine is now gaining popularity; 35 percent of Americans now say they prefer wine to beer.

While strolling through downtown Bayfield I came upon a small liquor store and naturally walked in. It had an extensive inventory of beverages, especially wines. Many of the wines were brands I knew, while others were foreign wines - not in the sense they were from countries overseas but they were all local wines - produced by small vintners from up in northern Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota.

Not a big wine drinker I found myself picking up many of the unfamiliar bottles and reading their labels. While holding the bottles in my hand, I noticed some bottles had deep indentations in their bases while others just had flat bottoms. When I asked the sales clerk why this was she admitted she did not know. So when I returned home I talked to several wine distributors I know personally and was surprised to learn some very interesting trivia about wine bottles which I think every bartender and wait staff member should know.

The next time you have a chance take a look at the bottom of the wine bottles in your bar’s inventory. More than likely you will see indentations in some of the bottle bottoms. 

Get ready - here comes the education.  The inward 'dimple' on the bottom of a wine bottle is officially called “The Punt” by Europeans; American sommeliers (that a fancy word for wine experts) generally refer to it as the "kick-up". From what I learned talking to sommeliers and wine distributors there is no one single reason any one agrees on for this unique feature in the bottom of a wine bottle; however I have to admit the reasons I learned were both bizarre and fascinating. Below is a list of the ten most common explanations I was provided as to why wine bottles have “punts” or "kick-ups?

1) Punts are carryovers from when wine bottles were actually hand blown. Glass blowers always to a moment to push in the bottom of the bottle before they removed their blow pipes to ensure the bottle would always sit flat and not scratch the surface of a table or counter when the bottle was sat down.

2) Punts make a wine bottle less tipsy. Its true! A flat bottom wine bottle only needs a slight nudge to become unstable - and tip over - however the punt provides the bottle with stability should the bottle be accidentally bumped by a person sitting at the dinner table.

3) Punts help consolidate any sediments in the bottom of the bottle thus it prevents sediments from being poured into a glass. {Remember years ago vintners [wine makers] had  problems with sediment, however today modern vintners use filters so there is really little sediment found in wines today}.

4) Punts increase the strength of the bottle.  The punt allows a bottle to easily hold the high pressure of sparkling wines and champagnes.  They also help control CO2 discharges when some wines continue to ferment in the bottle.

5) Punts takes up room in the bottle which allows a bottle to appear larger, yet hold a lesser amount of wine. (This to me is an idiotic reason cynical people believe. I don't).

6) Punts help prevent wine bottles from shattering should they fall off a table and onto the floor.  Its true - the punt design is actually an engineering thing.

7) My favorite.  Prior to the invention of cardboard and wooden boxes wine bottles were typically laid on their sides in the cargo holds of sailing ships. The punts allowed one bottle’s neck to fit nicely in the base of another bottle, thus they (the punts) prevented wine bottles from rolling around below deck and allowed more bottles to be stacked row upon row during a voyage.

8) Punts provide a convenient place for a Wine Steward {a fancy term for a wine server} thumb.  The punt allegedly makes allows a server to more accurately pour wine.

9) Punts make it easier for vintners to clean bottles prior to filling them with wine. When a stream of hot water is injected into a bottle it hits the punt and is deflected back throughout the entire bottle evenly and which cleans the bottles quicker.

10) Finally, the true connoisseurs of wine always insist “Punts make wine taste better”.

Whatever the reason here is what I have personally discovered.  Every time I go into a liquor store I ask the clerk where is your most expensive bottle of wine.  When they point it out I pick up the bottle and check the punt.  With very few exceptions - the more expensive the bottle of wine is - the deeper the punt or kick-up is.  Go figure.

Well there you have Eba G.’s reasons for punts in wine bottles. Next time you see a bottle of wine check out the punts.  Most importantly I highly recommend you share this knowledge with your customers - believe me you will sell more wine if you do. And by all means make sure to visit or go to for more great ideas on how you can improve your professionalism or increase the sales in your bar or tavern. 

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