The oldest finds of artificially produced glass in the form of glass beads date back to around 3500 BC from Egyptian royal tombs. Around 1500 BC the first hollow glasses were produced in Egypt and in the area of Mesopotamia and wine glasses were already in use. At that time, the glass was heated to about 900 °C, it was then in a viscous state and was wrapped around solid sand or clay cores and modelled. The fragility of the glass prevented it from becoming accepted for larger containers and thus for transport. Around 200 BC, the invention of the glassmaker's pipe (glassblowing) and the glass melting furnace by the Phoenicians in the area of present-day Syria revolutionized glass production fundamentally.
The Romans first produced window glass in the 1st century AD. They also already produced bottles for wine, but due to their fragility they were hardly used for storage. Clay vessels such as amphorae were still used for this purpose. The oldest wine bottle in the world with contents is exhibited in a museum in Speyer. It was found in a Roman grave and dates from the 4th century A.D. Incidentally, the age of glass can be determined by means of ion beam analysis. This can be used to detect manipulations and wine adulteration when old and expensive vintages are sold. A service in this concern is offered by the London wine trading house Antique Wine Company.
From the 14th century, the luxury glass produced in Venice was exported worldwide. Glass was an absolute luxury article and drinking glasses made of silver were considered as usual. At this time, bottles wrapped in straw were already used in Florence for the transport of wine, but glass was still much too fragile. For the most part, wooden barrels or containers made of other materials such as earthenware or tin were still used for this purpose. It was not until the beginning of the 17th century that more resistant bottles could be produced in England due to coal-fired ovens and the resulting high heat. It was also here that the production of lead crystal was discovered in 1675. Now bottles of various shapes and sizes were produced industrially. Today, glass containers of 25 to 65 litres are used for the ageing and storage of wine as an alternative to small wooden barrels. For more information, see also bottles, glass corks and wine containers.