I will try to explain and show some of the different bottle sizes there is and also the history behind them. Many traditional wine bottle sizes are named for biblical kings and historical figures.
Here is a list of the most frequently used wine bottle sizes.
PICCOLO 1/4bt 0, 1875L
HALF 1/2bt 0,375L
STANDARD 1bt 0,750L
MAGNUM 2bt 1,5L
JEROBOAM 4bt 3L “First King of The Kingdom”
REHOBOAM 6bt 4,5L “First king of separate Judea”
METHUSELAH 8bt 6L “Oldest Man”
SALAMANAZAR 12bt 9L “Assyrian King”
BALTHAZAR 16bt 12L “One of The Wise Men”
NEBUCHADNEZZAR 20bt 15L “King of Babylon”
SOLOMON 24bt 18L “King Solomon, the wisest of all men, built the Temple in Jerusalem”
PRIMAT 36bt 27L (Also called Goliath) “Stoned by David”
MELCHIZEDEK 40bt 30L “King of Salem”
Aside from the standard sizes, other bottle sizes may be used for specific types of wine or in certain regions, based on their own wine production traditions. Other wine bottle sizes like 1000 ml 500 ml and 250 ml are some of the unique wine bottle sizes available. It is important to know, some wine bottle sizes, usually larger formats are only used for the production of Champagne. In fact Champagne is famous for creating numerous wine bottle sizes used only for Champagne. The most unique Champagne bottle size earned the nickname of the Winston Churchill. The special bottle was made by Pol Roger for Winston Churchill and held exactly 20 ounces of Champagne, which was considered the perfect amount by Churchill for the morning.
The bigger the better?
The main change in sizes and shapes for wine bottles began taking place in the early to mid 1700’s. The different wine bottle shapes and sizes started taking shape once it was discovered that cork could act as a sealing agent, which allowed the wines to age or at least not spoil. The next step in the evolution of wine bottle shapes and sizes came about when it was discovered that larger bottles not only looked better, they could also change the taste of a wine. This ability to change took place because the larger sized wine bottles allowed the wine to age and develop over longer periods of time than the standard glass bottles of the day. Larger wine bottle sizes are well suited to longer aging. It is a known fact that wine from larger format wine bottles age more slowly, and possibly even develop more complexity and nuances than wines from smaller wine bottle sizes. This is due to the smaller amount of air, or more accurately, (oxygen and sulfur dioxide) that resides between the cork and the wine. The surface to air ratio between the wine and the bottom of the cork is called ullage. The amount of ullage can either oxidize the wine, causing it to age prematurely, or develop at a slower pace of maturity. This takes because because the more air the surface of the wine is exposed to, the faster the wine is going to develop. That is why half bottles develop so much faster than large format bottles.
Wine bottle shapes
It’s not just wine bottle sizes that vary widely. There are numerous different shapes that wine is often bottled in as well. When wine was first bottled, bottles were not standard in shape or size. The reason for this is, at the time, all wine bottles were manufactured one bottle at a time by glass blowers. If you think today’s bottles look odd, check out the first glass bottles that were called onion shaped bottles, due to their round shape.
Today, while there are a plenty of variances in bottle shapes, the three most widely used bottles are based on the following: The Bordeaux bottle with its tall shoulders, deep punt and straight sides. The sloped shoulders helps trap the sediment while the punt adds strength to the construction of the bottle. The Bordeaux shaped wine bottle was created in France in the early 1700’s in France. Part of the reason the particular shaped bottle was easily adopted in Bordeaux is due to the fact that the bottle design was most likely invented by Pierre Mitchell, who was also the owner of Chateau du Tertre in Margaux. The most popular wine bottle size and shape today is the standard Bordeaux shaped bottle used for most wines.
The Burgundy bottle is wider and more pear shaped than the Bordeaux bottle. The Burgundy bottle has sloping shoulders with a deep punt. Today the bottle is the preferred shape by most produces of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in countries all over the world. T
The wines of Germany and Alsace prominently feature bottles with long necks and small punts. The unique, long, lanky shape was probably created at some point in the 1800’s. The elongated shape made them easy to store and stand out from other bottles in a wine merchants store.
Champagne bottles were created to enhance both the beauty of the bottle shape and for practical reasons. Practicality comes into play in Champagne because the bottles needed to be stronger, due to the pressures coming from the effervescence in Champagne. While Champagne bottles are obviously related to the pear shaped, Burgundy bottle, they are also different. Champagne bottles are usually slightly larger, heavier and feature larger, deeper punts for the reasons we mentioned. The bottles were invented at the same time that wine makers discovered how to produce Champagne, in 1662. Several Champagne producers have created their own, unique, patented Champagne bottle shapes to help their product stand out including Krug, Dom Perignon, Feuillatte Palmes d’Or, Cristal, Laurent Perrier and others.
Port and Madeira favors a round, almost cylinder bottle shape that was designed for long term cellaring that is quite easy to stack, store and transport.
If any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me.
In collaboration with Monsordo, Langhe rosso 2014, Ceretto winery