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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Standing Tall In New Gretna- The Renault Wine Bottle

Without a doubt, the most famous roadside advertising in New Gretna is the Renault Wine bottle on Route 9. In the late 1930s and early 1940's the Renault Winery in Egg Harbor City erected bottles throughout the area that became their trademark and proved to be a great attraction for the winery. Renault constructed and owned the bottles; however, most were placed on private property. Over the years many property owners failed to cooperate with the winery and most of the bottles deteriorated and either fell down or were dismantled.

The wine bottle in New Gretna was generally kept in good repair throughout the years.

The Renault wine bottle on Route 9 in New Gretna, circa 2002. (Photo by Pete Stemmer.)

Many people think that the wine bottle is solid cement, but that is not true. It is hollow with a hard outside skin of a sprayed cement type substance supported by a wooden frame, much like a school child would construct a paper mache figure for a school project. 

A rear entrance in the bottle base shows that it is indeed, hollow. (Photo by Pete Stemmer.)

A wooden frame inside the bottle supports and anchors the hollow structure. (Photo by Pete Stemmer.)

In 2002, the local owner of the property on which the bottle stands demanded rent from the winery for their advertising. When the winery refused, the property owner, disregarding the historical tradition of the advertising bottle, covered the bottle with white plastic to hide the advertising in a manuever to persuade the wine company into paying rent to advertise their wine. 

The local property owner covered the bottle in white plastic to persuade the Renault Winery to pay rent to advertise their product on his property. (Photo by Pete Stemmer.)

The wine company steadfastly refused to pay rental for the priviledge of displaying their advertising on their historic bottle and a standoff ensued. Unfortunately, the plastic covering the bottle trapped moisture which resulted in the deterioration of the painted surface. When the plastic was finally removed, the bottle's exterior was in poor condition and it was painted white. It sits that way today. Hopefully, the bottle will be restored to its original beauty in the future. It would be a shame to loose another piece of local history.

The Renault Wine bottle today. The leaning tower of Pizza has nothing on New Gretna. (Photo by Pete Stemmer.)

The Renault wine bottle from a satellite photo downloaded from Google Earth. Notice the dark shadow cast to the left of the white bottle.

There are three other known Renault advertising bottles still in existance. Two are still advertising Renault wine, one in Egg Harbor City and the other in Hammonton. The third, presently being used to advertise a local gas company, is in Bayville.

(l-r) The Egg Harbor City, Hammonton, and Bayville advertising bottles. (Photos from "The Giant Containers" on the "Roadside Architecture" web site at .)

While I agree that driving and drinking don't mix, the same cannot be said of advertising. The old Renault Winery bottles still prove, as did the Berma Shave signs of the same era,  that driving and advertising do mix. I sure miss the authentic old Renault wine bottle as I drive down Route 9 in New Gretna. The all white bottle makes it look like a ghost of its former self.

Pete S


  1. I was a small child living on the property next to the wine bottle. I watched them build it.

    Dave Kalm in Florida

  2. My great uncle Louis Portaluppi is the one that built those bottles. I live in FL and have never seen them in person. Sure do hate to think of them not being kept up.

  3. Gerry,

    Do you have or know of any family members who may have photos or business related information to the Renault wine bottles regarding your great uncle, Louis Portaluppi? I would love to do a piece on his impact on commercial art in our area.

    Pete S

  4. Too bad an agreement cannot be reached to advertise other companies like the example of the gas company where both can share the profits.