Wine is one of my favorite things. I love trying new wines and learning more about the different types. When my research brought me to wine bottle sizes, I was surprised.
I was familiar with a few sizes, but I was unaware of just how many sizes there are. I was also surprised to learn how the size can impact the character of the wine.
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Does Size Matter?
You may be wondering why you should care about the sizes. Why not just grab a standard bottle or two? There are a few reasons why the size of the bottle matters.
Smaller bottles are excellent if you intend to drink less than a standard bottle. Once the wine is opened, it will stay fresh for 3-5 days.
As oxygen comes into contact with the wine, it begins to affect the taste and composition. Over time, it can turn to vinegar.
Larger bottles have their own advantages. The age is better than standard bottles. When wine is placed in a wine cellar, it ages and begins to develop its flavor. Small amounts of oxygen pass through the cork.
A larger bottle means there’s a higher wine to oxygen ratio, which allows the wine to develop slower. This helps preserve the wine’s character and freshness. Wine experts say that if you open a standard bottle alongside a large bottle, you’ll be able to taste a distinct difference.
Larger bottles can also be a great investment. Because of their slower development, they are worth more than standard bottles of the same vintage.
At a recent Christie’s auction, magnum bottles of 1986 Château Lafite Rothschild sold for more than $2,000 each.
Wine Bottle Sizes
Bottle size ranges from the single-serving split to the 30 liter Midas.
Split or Piccolo
This is the smallest size wine bottle. It contains one glass of wine or 187.5 ml. It’s equivalent to a quarter bottle of standard size. Perfect for those times when you only want a single serving. It’s usually used for sparkling wine.
Half or Demi
A half or Demi bottle is half a standard size bottle. It contains 2.5 glasses of wine or 375 ml. The 375 ml Demi is great when you are drinking alone, or you want to share a glass with a friend.
Half Liter or Jennie
A half-liter is slightly larger than a half. It contains 3 glasses of wine or 500 ml. This size is often used for sweet wine.
The standard 750 ml bottle is the one you’ll see in grocery and liquor stores most often. This common bottle size contains 5 glasses of wine. It’s a great choice when you want to split a bottle with a few friends or enjoy a candlelit romantic dinner.
A liter contains 7 glasses of wine or one liter. It’s a popular choice for value wines, which offer a great bang for your buck. You can think of it as the budget option.
It’s great for informal parties when quantity takes precedence over quality.
A magnum bottle is 10 glasses of wine or 1.5 liters. It’s the equivalent of two standard-size bottles.
As discussed earlier, this large bottle is perfect for aging in a wine cellar. It’s often used for high-quality reds that require a long aging process to be at their best.
If you are having an elegant celebration or dinner party, you can’t go wrong with a magnum bottle. In addition to a well-developed character, the larger size feels over the top and festive.
Double Magnum or Jeroboam
The double magnum is the size of two magnum bottles or four standard bottles. It contains 20 glasses of wine or 3 liters.
It offers the same benefits as a magnum, but its oversized nature makes it feel even more luxurious. It gets its name, Jeroboam, from the first biblical king of Israel.
Rehoboam (Jeroboam in Bordeaux)
This behemoth contains 30 glasses of wine or 30 liters. It’s equivalent to 6 standard bottles.
Rehoboam was the son of Solomon and the grandson of King David. The large bottle certainly represents biblical proportions.
Rehoboam is primarily used by champagne houses to bottle sparkling wines.
Methuselah or Imperial (Bordeaux)
Methuselah holds 40 glasses of wine or 6 liters. It’s equivalent to 8 standard bottles. It’s named after Methuselah, the oldest person mentioned in the bible.
Salmanazar holds 60 glasses of wine or 9 liters. It’s the equivalent of 12 standard bottles or an entire case of wine in one oversized bottle.
It’s named after an Assyrian king mentioned in the bible.
Balthazar contains 80 glasses of wine or 12 liters. It contains 16 standard size bottles of wine.
Balthazar is one of the three wise men. This bottle would certainly make an impressive gift.
Nebuchadnezzar is filled with 100 glasses of wine, or 15 liters. It holds the equivalent of 20 standard bottles.
It gets its namesake for the longest-ruling king of Babylon.
Melchior holds 120 glasses of wine or 18 liters. It’s the equivalent of 24 standard bottles or two cases.
It weighs in at nearly 100 pounds, which makes getting it from the cellar to the table an interesting challenge.
It’s named for the oldest of the three Magi in the bible.
This giant bottle contains 130 glasses of wine or 20 liters. It holds 26 standard bottles.
Solomon is one of the most famous biblical figures. He built the Temple of Solomon and was believed to possess supernatural powers. Those powers would come in handy when opening this giant.
Sovereign contains 175 glasses of wine or 26 liters. It’s the equivalent of 35 standard bottles.
It was created in 1988 by Tattinger. Sovereign of the Seas was the largest cruise liner in existence when it launched, and Sovereign was created in celebration of its maiden voyage.
Goliath or Primat
There couldn’t be a more fitting name for this giant among giants. It’s the second-largest bottle size. It contains 180 glasses or 27 liters. It’s the equivalent of 36 standard bottles.
Melchizedek or Midas
The largest size wine bottle, it contains 200 glasses or 30 liters. It equals 40 bottles of wine.
Midas’s legend claims everything he touched turned to gold. Melchizedek was a biblical priest-king known for offering bread and wine to Abram. Both are fitting names for this wine colossus.
Champagne Bottle Sizes
Champagne bottle sizes are the same as wine bottle sizes. Champagne is best when it has a slow disgorgement or maturing process.
The best champagne is said to come from magnum bottles. This is because the cork of a standard size wine bottle and a magnum are exactly the same, but the magnum contains twice as much champagne. This allows for slower oxidation which preserves the freshness of the fruit.
A bigger bottle isn’t always a better bottle. A larger bottle than a magnum has a larger cork as well, and so it loses this advantage. A smaller bottle, like a half or demi, will mature faster than a standard size bottle because there’s higher oxygen to champagne ratio.
Wine Bottle Shapes
There are several basic wine and champagne bottle shapes, along with custom sizes produced by different wine producers.
The Bordeaux is the most common shape for wine bottles. It’s tall with straight sides and distinct shoulders.
It’s used to bottle Bordeaux wine, Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as many other wines.
Burgundy bottles are used for pinot noir and chardonnay. These bottles have a wider base and gently sloping shoulders.
These bottles are tall and thin. They look more delicate than other shapes. They are commonly used for dessert wine and Riesling.
Champagne bottles have a wide base and gently sloping shoulders. More importantly, they are much heavier than other types. Champagne is under significant pressure, up to 90 pounds per square inch, so strong bottles are required.
Port is essentially a Bordeaux bottle with a bulb in the neck. It’s often used for port and sherry.