Occasionally, it can be extremely useful to know the names for the variety of Champagne / Wine bottle shapes and sizes. So let us get started with the standard 750ml (millilitre) bottle names, of the various shapes we are all most familiar with. There are many standard-sized shapes for wine bottles available around the world today, some of which are unique only to one production, that said, the four most common are Bordeaux, Burgundy, Hock (or Rhine) and Champagne-style bottle shapes.
1. The Bordeaux-style bottle shape is the most common shape for wine bottles, these have straight sides and high, rounded shoulders. Cabernet Sauvignon is the most common Bordeaux wine, although vintners use this type of bottle for many varieties.
2. The Burgundy-style bottle shape is widely used for New World wines and have gently sloping shoulders, with both red and white wines in similar green bottles.
3. The Hock (or Rhine)-style bottle shape, traditionally with brown coloured glass, is slender with gentle tapering shoulders from the mid-point of the bottle to the neck.
4. The Champagne-style bottle shape is rather like the Burgundy style bottle only slightly wider with thicker glass, it has slender, gently sloping shoulders leading down from the neck and a dimple in the bottom, known as a punt which adds further strength to the bottle.
In addition to these bottle shapes, there are a number of bottle sizes, both up and down from the standard bottle size mentioned above, with each size up from the Magnum (1.5L), having a unique name derived from the Book of Kings.
Most frequently used champagne / wine bottle names and sizes:
- Quarter Bottle: 187ml, also known as the Piccolo. (1/4 bottle) 1 glass of wine.
- Half Bottle, Demi or Split): 375ml (1/2 bottle) 2 glasses of wine
- Standard: 750ml, 25.4 oz – The most popular sized wine bottle today and offers 4 to 6 glasses of wine
- Magnum: 1.5 Litres (2 bottles)
- Jeroboam or Double Magnum: 3 Litres (4 bottles) “First King of The Kingdom”
- Bordeaux Jeroboam: 5 litres (6.75 bottles)
- Rehoboam: 4.5 Litres (6 bottles) “Israelite King, he who enlarges the people”
- Methuselah or Imperial: “Oldest Man” 6 litres (8 bottles)
- Salmanazar: 9 Litres (12 bottles) “Assyrian King”
- Balthazar: 12 Litres (16 bottles) “One of The Wise Men”
- Nebuchanezzar: 15 Litres (20 bottles) “King of Babylon”
- Melchoir: 18 Litres (24 bottles) “Biblical Magi appearing in the Gospel of Matthew”
- Solomon: 20 Litres (26 bottles) “King Solomon, the wisest of all men”
- Sovereign: 25 Litres (33.3 bottles)
- Primat or Goliath: 27 Litres (36 bottles) “Stoned by David”
- Melchizedek or Midas: 30 Litres (40 bottles) “Melchizedek is the King of Salem and priest of El Elyon as mentioned in the 14th chapter of the Book of Genesis”
The majority of these names were inspired by ancient Kings (Book of Kings) and Biblical characters, and although no one is exactly sure why the larger bottle formats were all given these names, the use of the name Jeroboam for the 5 litre Bordeaux bottle can be traced back to around 1725. One theory behind selecting the name Jeroboam (the biblical founder of Israel), is that he is referenced to in many texts as “a man of great worth,” as one can imagine are the bottles. However, as far as research can tell, the Champagne region did not adopt the Jeroboam (slightly smaller than Bordeaux bottle of the same name), until sometime around 1939, just prior to the onset of WWII, and it is thought that the names of the other bottles merely followed suit in the same fashion.
In general, larger wine bottle sizes are very well suited to a longer ageing of wine. It has been long known that wine from larger format bottles age slower, and possibly even develop more complexity and distinction than wines from smaller bottle sizes. This is due to the smaller ratio of SO2 gas, (sulphur dioxide and oxygen) that occupies the space at the top of the bottle between the cork and the wine. The ratio of gas between the volume of wine and the bottom of the cork is called the ullage; therefore the least air the surface of the wine is exposed to, the slower the wine will develop. For this very same reason, that is why half bottles of wine develop much faster than large bottles.
However, very large bottles have one disadvantage and that is their weight. One interesting fact; as a rule of thumb, a bottle which contains the wine is generally 55% (110% for sparkling wines) percent the weight of the contents of wine, for example: a standard bottle containing 750ml (750g), of wine will weigh a little over 400g, (825g for Sparkling wine), making the total weight around 1.150g (or 1.575g for Sparkling wine). Therefore, the total weight of a Melchizedek at 30 litres would weight a mammoth 46kg for wine or just over 63kg per bottle for sparkling wine, requiring an extremely sturdy table.
That said, none of these come anywhere near to the world’s largest bottle of wine. The ‘Maximus’, is a Bordeaux-style bottle of Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2001, the bottle alone, weighs 68kg empty. It was sold and shipped to Wine Ventures, a wine and chocolate store in Tenafly, New Jersey. The bottle’s actual height, confirmed by the Guinness Book of Records, is 1.38m, and it holds 130 litres, or 173 standard bottles of wine.
Some other less common wine bottle formats include:
- Cylinder: 100ml Used Chopine 250ml 1/3 bottle 250ml (one and a quarter glass) used mainly in France
- Clavelin half: 310ml & Clavelin full: 620ml, Used for Vin Juane, a yellow wine of the Jura region in France
- Tenth: 378ml:
- Jennie: 500ml: most often used for sweet, dessert wines from Tokaji, Sauternes and the Jerez de la Frontera region
- The Winston Churchill: 591ml (20 ounces). This special bottle was made by Pol Roger for Winston Churchill and held exactly 20 ounces of Champagne, the perfect amount for Churchill at Dinner at noon.
- Litre: 1000ml, a wine bottle size that holds the middle ground between a full bottle the 1.5 litre magnum, It has been popularized in California by Grace Family Vineyards for their Cabernet Sauvignon, but is however, less popular in Europe
- Marie Jeanne: 2.25 litres, equal to three standard bottles. Port producers often refer to this unique bottle as a Tregnum or Tappit Hen bottle.
See also: Types of Wine Glasses & Glassware