What does a wine bottle size mean for you?
Here are the basic wine bottle sizes, with names varying depending on region. Whilst it might not mean a lot if you’re buying a bottle to share sometime soon with your friends, it will mean a lot more if you’re cellaring it for years to come!
Generally, as we go up in size, the air-to-wine ration gets smaller, in theory making the wine able to be aged longer or make it slower to develop.
Standard 750ml bottles
Virtually every winemaker, wholesaler and retailer will bottle, stock and sell their wines in this size. It is the standard size for wine. This is perfect for regular consumption, however because it is the most widely available, it is also highly common to see these sizes cellared if they are of cellaring potential (and not all are!).
Magnums are a 1.5 litre bottle of wine, around 16 standard drinks. It is offered in Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne bottles as well as other variants. The larger we go up in bottle size, the slower (in theory) the wine will age, if kept in the right conditions. Magnums are great for a large dinner party or wine event where more people need access to the same bottle of the same vintage. It is also fun to say that your group finished off a magnum over lunch (not encouraging anyone, though!).
Next comes a Marie-Jeanne, at 2.25 litres, but since this is going out of fashion, we’ll skip to the next!
In Bordeaux bottles, this 3 litres bottle is generally known as a double-magnum, since it is double the capacity of a magnum. In Burgundy and Champagne bottles, it is often referred to as a Jeroboam, setting the trend for biblical names for these large size bottles. What we’re getting into here is serious capacity, containing around 30-35 standard drinks. This would suit a very large party, or a connoisseurs dinner party, or a large tasting (if that’s your thing!).
Confusion comes in here since in Bordeaux sizes, a 4.5 litre bottle is generally called a Jeroboam (remember a Burgundy or Champagne Jeroboam will generally be 3 litres), and the Burgundy of Champagne equivalent is the Rehoboam. These changes are due to bottle shape but also the origins and traditions differ in different regions!
In Bordeaux wines, a six litre bottle is generally known as an Imperiale, and you will see this size talked about a lot, although they’re rare in vintages from top chateaux. Burgundy or Champagne in this size is known as a Methusaleh, keeping their biblical tradition. This represents enormous aging potential, and would be hugely impressive to wheel out (that’s what you’d have to do!) at a dinner party or celebration. This is around 60 standard wine servings. An Imperiale of top Bordeaux wine Cheval Blanc 1947 sold just a couple of years ago at auction, and it is rare to see them from these chateaux. Read about that here.
Just out of sheer entertainment, here’s what a Melchior size bottle looks like, in comparison to a man. A Melchior is 18 litres of wine, or 24 bottles worth. This is a Cheval Blanc Melchior, and the potential here is unbelievable. It is one of only ten Melchiors made by Cheval Blanc for 2006.
For more, read on to the sources below!
Good drinking to you!