Some people say that size matters, others say shape matters more. We are staying out of that discussion altogether. But, regardless of how you feel about the subject, there are more sizes of wine bottles than you may think, and in this minisode we demystify why there are so different sizes of bottles, why they almost always cost more than standard bottle sizes, and what these different bottles are called. The names are pretty nutty! If you have ever wondered what a split is, or how big a Balthazar is, this is the episode for you! Then, the next time you are at a party with a bunch of wine nerds, you can show off your massive wine vocabulary!
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Minisode #10: Does Wine Bottle Size Matter?
Hi everyone, and welcome to this special mini-episode of The Wine Pair Podcast! I’m Joe, your sommelier of reasonably priced wine, and this is my wife and my wine pairing partner in crime Carmela. And we are The Wine Pair.
If you are new to The Wine Pair Podcast, these minisodes are just shorter versions of the regular podcast that we put on weeks where we might be traveling or handling other life stuff, and instead of tasting and reviewing three wines under $20 that are easy to find, which is what we usually do in our longer episodes, in the minisodes, we focus more on things like wine etiquette, wine education, and wine tips. And, we try to make it fun and understandable for regular, everyday people like us! And our podcast is recommended by Decanter magazine. Which is nice!
So, Carmela, because it is the Holidays, we are going to do a few of these minisodes because it still gives us a chance to have some fun with you all out there in listening land, but it also gives us a little more time in our days to do shopping, cooking, cleaning the house - you know, all that fun Holiday stuff.
So, Carmela, have you ever wondered why there are all these different sizes of wine bottles? Like why sometimes you go to a store or a wine shop or a restaurant and they have these gi-huge-ant bottles of wine - and wondered, what the hell is that all about? We’ll do a minisode soon on what the different types of wine bottle shapes, but for today, we want to talk about wine bottle sizes.
For instance, do you know what a double sized bottle of wine is called? It’s called a magnum. And do you know what a half bottle of wine is called? It’s called a half or a demi. And did you know there is a bottle of wine called the Melchizedek or Midas and that it holds 40 bottles of wine or 200 glasses?
So, why are there all of these different sizes of wine bottles, and why do they vary in cost per ounce or milliliter, and does it actually matter?
Well, one thing to understand right from the get go is that the size of the bottle of wine does impact how long it can last or how long you can keep it in your cellar and let it age. The rule of thumb with wine is that the more air that gets to the wine, the shorter it’s aging time - and the faster it will go past its prime.
In most bottles of wine, there is a gap between the cork or cap and the wine itself - and yes, there is a name for that gap - called ullage. In most cases, that gap is relatively small, and regardless of the size of the bottle, the amount of air is about the same, but comparatively, the bigger the bottle of wine, the smaller the air to wine ratio is. So, that means that bigger bottles of wine can age much longer because less air is getting into contact with the wine. Because of that, many wine collectors love larger format wine bottles, and they will pay a premium for them.
The other reason there are different sized bottles of wine is because they are often considered fun and festive. Let’s face it, you look like a baller when you walk in with a magnum of champagne!
There are a few downsides, too, though. First, storing these big ass wine bottles can be hard because most wine cellars and wine racks are made for the standard bottle size (yes, that is what it is called) which is 750ml. The second reason is that, as the wine bottles get bigger, they get heavier and harder to pour. I mean, how the hell do you pour a bottle of wine that holds 40 standard bottles?
So, let’s talk about what the different bottles are called and this came from a great article from Wine Enthusiast I have a link to in our show notes:
- Split or Piccolo is 187.5 ml, holds ¼ standard bottle or 1 glass of wine
- It is a single-serve bottle, used almost exclusively for sparkling wines
- Half or Demi is 375 ml, holds ½ standard bottle or 2.5 glasses of wine
- A good one to use when you want to drink alone, or when you want to drink an expensive wine but don’t want to spend a lot. Just consider that it cannot age as long as a single bottle
- Half-liter or Jennie is 500 ml, holds ⅔ standard bottle or 3 glasses of wine
- This format is primarily used for Tokaj, Sauternes and several other types of sweet wines.
- Standard is 750 ml, holds 1 standard bottle or 5 glasses of wine (5 ounces)
- Liter is 1 L, holds 1⅓ standard bottles or 7 glasses of wine
- These are getting more popular, especially in Europe.
- Magnum is 1.5 L, holds 2 standard bottles or 10 glasses of wine
- Collector’s love them and love to show them off
- Jeroboam or Double Magnum is 3 L, holds 4 standard bottles or 20 glasses of wine
- It’s named for the first biblical king of the northern kingdom of Israel. And don’t ask why, but we are going to start getting into kings from the bible as names for most of the rest of these bottles
- Rehoboam (Jeroboam in Bordeaux) is 4.5 L, holds 6 standard bottles or 30 glasses of wine. A triple magnum
- Another reference to a biblical king, these bottles are used primarily by big Champagne houses for larger quantities of sparkling wine.
- Methuselah or Imperial (Bordeaux) is 6 L, holds 8 standard bottles or 40 glasses of wine
- Salmanazar is 9 L, or 12 standard bottles or 60 glasses of wine. That’s a case of wine in one bottle!
- Balthazar is 12 L, or 16 standard bottles or 80 glasses of wine
- Named after one of the three Wise Men
- Nebuchadnezzar is 15 L, holds 20 standard bottles or 100 glasses of wine
- Named for the longest-ruling king of Babylon, not for Morpheus’ ship in The Matrix
- Melchior is18 L, holds 24 standard bottles or 120 glasses of wine (yes, two cases of wine)
- Also named for one of the three Wise Men, this bottle weighs over 100 pounds
- Solomon is 20 L, holds 26 standard bottles or 130 glasses of wine
- Sovereign is 26 L, or 35 standard bottles or 175 glasses of wine
- This was created recently by Taittinger in 1988 for the launch of what was then the world’s largest cruise liner, Sovereign of the Seas.
- Primat or Goliath is 27 L, or 36 standard bottles or 180 glasses of wine (3 cases of wine)
- Melchizedek or Midas is 30 L, or 40 standard bottles or 200 glasses of wine
Why you would need that much wine, or where you would store that big of a bottle, or where you would even find someone who makes those bottles is beyond me, but hey, people are weird, and to each his or her own, and all that kind of stuff.
Just note in most cases you will pay more per liter or ounce for both smaller bottles and bottles larger than the standard size. That is likely due to both relative scarcity (they make fewer of them so that is more expensive) and larger bottles are more collectible so they can charge more for all those dummies who want to pay a lot for wine. But that’s not what we do! We like inexpensive regular old bottles of wine!
If you want to see the sources for our content today and get the links to learn more, come to our website, look for this minidose, and open up the show notes.
Articles and Links
Ok, that’s it for this minisode. Check out our other minisodes to learn more which you can find on our website or your favorite podcast service. You can follow us on Instagram at thewinepairpodcast or you can visit our website thewinepairpodcast.com and in any of those places you can reach out to us directly, and you can send us an email at email@example.com. We also will have our show notes on our website, and we will include links to articles on this topic as well. And, on our website you can also sign up for our fun newsletter!
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