While most of the wine bottles we own and drink will be of a standard size, there are a large number of sizes when it comes to bottling. From a tiny 100ml to a ridiculous 130 litres, there are a wide variety of bottle sizes available. We take a look at some of the most popular and some of the most unique bottles on the market!
Wine bottles first started changing shape and size during the 1700’s, with the rise of the cork. When corks were used to stopper wine, it meant that it would not spoil as quickly, allowing you to age wine, or not have to drink it all at once! Therefore, bigger bottles of wine were able to be made and enjoyed.
Another reason for having bigger bottles of wine is that the size of the bottle can have an impact on the taste of the wine. This is due to the fact that larger bottles can allow wine to age over a longer time period than smaller bottles. As the wine ages slower, it is able to develop more nuances and complexities in its taste, as the bigger bottle size means that there is a smaller amount of oxygen and sulphur dioxide between the cork and wine. The amount of air the wine is exposed to inside the bottle is known as ullage, and the higher the surface to air ratio, the faster the wine will age.
The larger bottles will also have thicker glass, which is an advantage for wine. The thicker glass, combined with the larger volume of wine, means that it is less at risk of temperature variations, which can impact on the way the wine ages, and can even spoil it! This is why wine lovers store their wine in a proper temperature controlled wine cabinet.
Large bottles aren’t perfect though. The bigger bottles will obviously have a larger neck than standard sizes. Because of this, the bottle may require a custom made cork. These will be made individually by a person, and so there is room for error here, as the cork may not fit exactly. This will, of course, not seal the bottle correctly, leading to the wine ageing poorly or spoiling.
Wine Bottle Size Names
Each wine bottle size is given its own name for easy identification and classification. While the smaller sizes, such as ‘half’ and ‘standard’ are fairly self-explanatory, once you get into the larger types they have their own distinct names. The larger bottles with unique names are all inspired by Biblical characters. For example, the Jeroboam, which contains the same as six standard bottles of wine, was the ‘First King of The Kingdom’. This is followed by Salmanazar the ‘Assyrian King’, which is 12 bottles; Balthazar, one of the Three Wise Men, which contains 16 bottles; and finally, Nebuchadnezzar the ‘King of Babylon’, which holds a whopping 20 bottles of wine! Here are some of the most popular wine bottle sizes:
Other Wine Bottle Sizes
The bottles shown above are just some of the popular size types out there, as there are more unique bottle sizes on offer. Predominantly, the most unique bottle types are solely used for Champagne. One such bottle, dubbed the ‘Winston Churchill’, was made by Pol Roger to hold exactly 20 ounces of Champagne, which is the amount Churchill considered perfect for his morning drink!
To make matters a little more confusing, some bottles have different names for the same size depending on what is in them. For example, the Imperial is eight bottles of wine, as is the Methuselah. The difference is that the Methuselah is reserved for sparkling wines, and the bottle is usually Burgundy-shaped rather than like a standard bottle.
The Smallest Bottles
It’s not all about the bigger bottles though. There is an equal amount of variation amongst the smaller bottles. These tend to be less common though, as most people are after more wine, not less! One of the smallest bottles contains only 100ml and is known as a ‘Cylinder’, as it is test tube-shaped. These, like the other smallest bottles, are for single-serve sips. The Split bottle, which holds 187ml of wine, is the most popular small bottle. These are the small, single glass servings that can be found in most supermarkets or on trains! Another small bottle type is the ‘Jennie’, a 500ml bottle that is primarily used for sweet dessert wines.
The Biggest Bottles
While most winemakers don’t go above the Nebuchadnezzar’s 20 bottles, there are bigger bottles than this available. Next up is the Melchoir, which holds 24 bottles, followed by the Sovereign which contains 33.3 bottles of wine! The Goliath, otherwise known as Primat, holds 36 bottles, while the Melchizedek is comparable to 40 standard bottles of wine. Finally, the biggest wine bottle in the world is the Maximus, which is a staggering 130 litres. This works out at 184 bottles of wine or 15 whole cases! The Maximus was created by Beringer for a charity auction and was filled with Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2001. The 1.38-metre high bottle can serve out 1200 glasses of wine, making it the perfect choice for a really, really big party! The world record winning bottle sold in 2004 for $55,812.
What is your favourite wine bottle size? Let us know in the comments below!