Wine bottle, the bigger the better?

Wine bottles from different sizes

(Leer en español)

We review the different formats that can be found on the market and how they affect the wine

In case there was any doubt... yes, in this article we are going to talk about the size of wine bottles, what else? Because you've probably never wondered but there are now more than a dozen different sizes of wine containers. Apart from the standard bottles (0.750 l), the fact that a winery decides to bottle part of its production in one or another format is not only a question of cost or commercial vision, since size can also affect the wine's storage potential, as we shall see.

Most common sizes

Before we go any further, let's review the most common formats which, depending on whether they are for still or sparkling wines, may have slightly different names:

  • Benjamin or Piccolo: (0.187 l). Equivalent to a quarter of a standard bottle which is enough for the filling of a glass. They are common in airline catering services or as a corporate gift.

  • Half bottle: (0.375 l). This is just half the contents of a standard bottle. This size can be found more frequently in restaurants.

  • Standard: (0.750 l). This is the most popular size in retail, on-trade and supermarkets. There are several theories about the choice of this particular size, such as that in the past bottles were made by hand, and the average blowers had a lung capacity between 0.650 and 0.750 l, so they opted for the largest possible size. Others claim that it is the ideal amount for a dinner for 2 or 3 people, but everything points to the fact that it was chosen for convenience of sale, transport and storage.

  • Magnum: (1.5 l). Equivalent to 2 standard bottles and is a relatively common size in many restaurants and specialized stores. After this format, it is much more difficult to find larger bottles in restaurants and stores.

  • Double Magnum or Jéroboam: (3 l). The quantity is the equivalent of 4 standard-size bottles.

  • Rhéoboam (sparkling): (4.5 l). This format is equivalent to six 0.750 l bottles.

  • Imperial and Mathusalem (sparkling wines): (6 l). The quantity would be that of 2 bottles of Double Magnum or Jéroboam.

  • Salmanazar: (9 l). It would be the same liquid that could be found in a case of wine (12 standard bottles).

  • Balthazar: (12 l). The equivalent of sixteen 0.750 l bottles.

  • Nabuchodonosor: (15 l). It would be like 20 standard bottles.

  • Melchior or Solomon: (18 l). Equivalent to 2 cases of 12 bottles.

There are at least three other sizes, but they are very rare to find: Sovereign (25 l),which would be equivalent to 33 bottles and a third; Primat (25 l), which would be like the contents of 36 bottles (3 cases); and Melchizedek (30 l), the equivalent of 40 bottles of wine.

The bigger, the better?

The answer is yes, and not only because of a question of cost, since it is cheaper to buy, for example, a Double Magnum than 4 standard bottles. The main argument for buying a larger bottle is that the larger the bottle, the better the wine will evolve and the longer it will age. This is because the contact of the liquid with the glass - which is exposed to light, heat, etc. - is proportionally less than that of a 0.750 l bottle, as is the entry of oxygen through the cork. Both factors contribute to the wine being preserved in good conditions for a longer period of time.

Biblical names

The list of names given to these bottles will surely have caught your attention, since most of them belong to kings mentioned in the Holy Scriptures. However, to this day there is no clear explanation as to why these names were used to name the different sizes of wine bottles. Could it be due to the greater or lesser importance of each of these monarchs in their time?


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