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The bottle is central to the improvement of wine through ageing. The first bottles were merely serving vessels, used as a decorative, though costly and fragile, way of bringing wine to table. It took a 17th-century breakthrough in glass-making, first made in England and soon taken up in Holland and France, to provide a supply of strong bottles. The key was a coal-burning furnace charcoal had been banned by King James I because it consumed vital ship-building timber made extra-hot by the use of a wind-tunnel. These bottles were strong, dark in colour (and thus opaque to light), regular in shape and above all cheap: the ideal containers for maturing wine.

By the mid-18th century the original globe shape had evolved into the tall cylinder we know today, suitable for "binning" storing on its side with the cork moist, the necessary posture for bottle-ageing of the wine.

 
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