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Bottle sizes & why it does matter

Monday, 16th July

Most of the time, most of us will stick to 75cl bottles of wine – as it is the standard format and consequently, the most accessible. Having said that, we’re getting more accustomed to half-bottles, which are getting more widely available – and that’s a good thing! On the other hand, we also see more Magnum bottles on merchants’ shelves – which is great too as it is a fun format, calling for great parties. And eventually, one might come across the odd 18.7cl bottle when travelling.

But there’s actually way more options available out there, when it comes to the size of a bottle of wine – we just don’t come across them, well… ever.

Wine bottle sizes

This guide of bottle sizes is really handy and self-explanatory and will take you through the entire range, all the way from Piccolo (375ml) to Nebuchadnezzar (15L = 20 bottles):

bottle sizes

But to summarise, here’s the list:

  • Piccolo or Split – 5 ml: a single serving of Champagne
  • Demi or Half – 375 ml: half of the standard 750 ml size
  • Standard – 750 ml: the standard size of a commercial bottle of wine
  • Magnum – 5 L: two standard 750 ml bottles
  • Double Magnum – 0 L: four standard 750 ml bottles
  • Jeroboam (still wine) – 5 L: six standard 750 ml bottles
  • Rehoboam – 5L: six standard 750 ml bottles, this format is usually specifically used for Champagne
  • Imperial – 0 L: eight standard 750 ml bottles
  • Rehoboam – 0 L: eight standard 750 ml bottles, this format is usually specifically used for Champagne
  • Salmanazar – 0 L: twelve standard 750 ml bottles
  • Balthazar – 0 L: sixteen standard 750 ml bottles
  • Nebuchadnezzar – 0 L: twenty standard 750 ml bottles
  • Melchior – 0 L: twenty-four standard 750 ml bottles
  • Solomon – 0 L: twenty-six standard 750 ml bottles
  • Sovereign – 0 L: thirty-three standard 750 ml bottles
  • Primat or Goliath – 0 L: thirty-six standard 750 ml bottles
  • Melchizedeck-0 L: forty standard 750 ml bottles
  • Maximus – 0 L: hundred and eight-four standard 750 ml bottles
  • Maximus was created by Beringer out of their 2001 Réserve Cabernet-Sauvignon for a charity auction

Wine bottles and Biblical Kings

You may have realised that bottles are named after Biblical Kings, which is not as surprising as you might originally think – when you consider the close relation between wine and monks/religion AND the Bible is the oldest book to Human Kind – and consequently, it is our oldest reference. Here’s a reminder, for the curious ones:

  • Jeroboam: “First King of The Kingdom”
  • Methuselah: “Oldest Man”
  • Salmanazar: “Assyrian King”
  • Balthazar: “One of The Wise Men”
  • Nebuchadnezzar: “King of Babylon”
  • Solomon: “King Solomon, the wisest of all men, built the Temple in Jerusalem”
  • Melchizede: “Name of several priesthoods in different religions including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Size does matter

So, when have these formats appeared and why? It’s believed the change in sizes (and shapes) for wine bottles began in mid 1700s, when it was discovered that the cork could act as a sealing agent.

Later on, it was discovered that larger bottles could have an impact on the taste of the wine. Here are the facts:

  • Larger wine bottles are well-suited to longer ageing: the wine ages more slowly and consequently develop more gracefully, resulting in more complexity and more subtle nuances than wines which mature in smaller wine bottles.
  • This is due to the surface-to-air ratio between the wine and the bottom of the cork (also called ‘ullage’). The more air the wine is exposed to, the faster it develops.
  • Magnum seems to be the ideal format or at least preferable to the standard 75cl because the ullage is optimal for maturing a wine.

Wine bottles vary in format/size but also in shapes – but this will be the topic of a different blog post.

Another very interesting topic which we’ll look into very soon is the development of wine containers such as bag in boxes, cans, plastic cups etc