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Message on a Bottle

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When I was a little kid I would often go beachcombing along the shorelines of the Gulf Islands. I had always hoped to find a bottle with a note in it from someone in a far off land across the Pacific. I came across a lot of glass, but never did find a message in a bottle.

Decades later, I still love glass bottles. With plastic becoming a more and more common packaging medium, I much prefer the feeling and weight of glass. And, for me, there’s still an aspect of romance in a glass wine bottle. But, did you know that, even when empty, every bottle still holds a message, of sorts?

The next time you polish off a bottle of your favourite brew, have a look at the heel of the bottle (the part along the lower edge just before it curves to the bottom) You’ll probably see some numbers and letters, a symbol or two and sometimes the volume of the bottle is embossed there. Then, you’ll notice a series of raised bumps, in a pattern, similar to this:

. . . … ..

It is not Braille for “This End Up”! It is what is known as a “mold code” or “heel code”. These bumps are part of the glass mold when the bottle is first manufactured. With these codes in place, the factory workers can tell which mold the bottle came from if there are any flaws in the final product. They can trace it back to the problem mold and make repairs as needed.

Contrary to popular belief, these bumps are NOT an indicator of how many times the bottle has been washed and recycled! Think about it, how could one tiny glass blob be placed on an existing bottle? That would cost a fortune to do, not to mention be a technical nightmare on the assembly line. Any new bumps, if it were possible to apply them, would probably either fall off during the re-bottling process or jostling about in the cases during shipping. If you look closely, the vast majority of glass bottles, refillable or not, display these mysterious bumps somewhere along their heel. Heck, even pickle jars and salsa bottles have them. Okay I’ll stop now so that you can go to your fridge and have a look for yourself. You know you want to!


References: Chad Upton