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Magnum Wine Bottle and Large Wine Formats

Apart from the increasingly popular Magnum bottle, did you know that bottles exist in an array of sizes up to a staggering 30 litres? Wines and sparkling wines are available not only in the classic 0.75 litre bottle, but also in smaller and much larger quantities.

Sizes and names of wine bottles

Sizes and names of wine bottles:

187.5 ml / 0.25 bottle: Split, Quarter, or Piccolo
200 ml
/ 0.26 bottle: Benjamin or Piccolo
250 ml
/ 0.33 bottle: Chopine or Quarter (of a litre) bottle
375 ml
/ 0.5 bottle: Fillette, Half, Demi or Media
750 ml
/ 1 bottle: Standard
/ 2 bottles: Magnum
/ 4 bottles: Double magnum or Jeroboam (in Champagne)
4.5L / 6 bottles: Rehoboam (in Champagne) and Jeroboam (in Bordeaux)
/ 8 bottles: Methuselah (in Champagne) or Imperial (for still wine)
/ 12 bottles: Salmanazar or Mordechai
/ 16 bottles: Balthazar
/ 20 bottles: Nebuchadnezzar
/ 24 bottles: Melchior
/ 26 bottles: Solomon
/ 33.3 bottles: Sovereign
/ 36 bottles: Goliath or Primat
/ 40 bottles: Melchizedek or Midas

You may have noticed some overlapping of names for some of the bottles. Piccolo is an Italian word meaning ‘little one’ and can refer to the two smallest sizes, whereas Chopine and Fillette are traditional French units. The term Jeroboam is used for a 3-litre bottle in Champagne and the 4.5L format in Bordeaux, which is often a source of confusion.

Many wine bottle sizes are named after biblical kings and famous figures in Hebrew history. For example, the 15-litre one is called Nebuchadnezzar, no doubt in homage to the king credited with constructing the famous Hanging Gardens of Babylon. The huge 20-litre sized Solomon can only be a tribute to the wise king of Israel who built the first Temple of Jerusalem. There’s no clear consensus as to the reason for these names, but they certainly add grandeur to the bottles. It may have begun when corks were applied as seals, thereby enabling wine to be aged, and larger format bottles allowed wines to develop and be kept for longer periods.

Why is the Magnum size bottle so popular?

A Magnum, with its 1.5-litre capacity, has distinct advantages. It’s the perfect bottle for serving at special events and occasions, such as weddings and large-scale functions. However, it’s just as suitable for any family gathering or get-together with friends. As it’s a very presentable and celebratory item to place on your table, a Magnum is sure to make an excellent impression on your guests.

Why is a Magnum bottle better than a standard one?

A Magnum bottle is considered to be better for a number of reasons, apart from its attractive presentation and impressive size. Magnums enable a superior maturation of the wine, because a larger bottle contains less oxygen in relation to the total amount of wine it contains. Due to less air existing between the cork and the wine, there is less oxidation and at a slower rate. Wine in this larger format will age more slowly and can even develop greater complexity and more nuances than when it’s bottled in a smaller size. Also, with its thicker glass and more volume of wine inside, a Magnum is less likely to undergo variations in temperature, creating a steady and even ageing of the wine. The bottle itself is more resistant and highly suitable for storage and cellaring.

There are other virtues to mention besides advantages in ageing, as Cavas and Champagnes in Magnum format have proved to have better organoleptic qualities than their 75 cl counterparts. It involves the autolysis process, when yeasts making up the lees are broken down andenzymes begin to enrich the sparkling wine with flavours. The larger surface area of the bottle allows the yeasts to come into contact with a greater proportion of wine, resulting in creamier and full-bodied sparkling wines.

Why are Magnum wine bottles more expensive?

Magnums of wine are special, and they may work out more expensive per litre than a standard 0.75-litre bottle. The production costs of this large format are considerably more than for the ordinary size, but to offset that, the wine itself can taste better and proves perfect for longer cellaring.

How did the 750 ml bottle come to be the standard size?

There are several theories about why the 750 ml format is used as the standard size. Some say it’s due to the average amount of wine obtained from 1kg of grapes, although this obviously varies according to the type of grape. It’s also believed to be the ideal bottle size for preserving wine generally. Another theory, perhaps one of the most widely accepted, is that this format came into widespread use as a result of British influence back in the 1800s. Wine distribution was dominated by a major player, the British Empire, as wine became available in bottles. A gallon is equivalent to 4.5L, and when divided by 6, gives us 0.75L. Therefore, in a case of 6 bottles there’s exactly one gallon of wine! A Bordeaux barrel holds 225L, which is equal to 50 gallons, and produces another convenient number: 300 bottles of 750 ml per barrel.

In Europe, in 1975, measurements were standardised and, following the European directive of 2007, all wines must be bottled in one of the formats mentioned above. In the restaurant and retail trade, bottles larger than Double Magnum (3L) are rarely offered, but prove eye-catching on display and ideal for decorative purposes.

Generally, the larger the capacity of the bottle, the rarer they are to find, as their production is very scarce. In the case of Champagnes and great Bordeaux wines sold at auctions, it is possible to come across larger formats, as they’re considered better for ensuring a well-progressed ageing of the wine, for preserving its fruit and offering extra freshness.

For any memorable occasion, whether during the Christmas and New Year festivities, a family Sunday lunch, a barbecue party in the garden or dinner with friends, nothing can beat large format bottles for enjoying your favourite wines in great company and style. Perfect for special times and big celebrations. At Vinissimus we have a wide range of formats to suit any event or gathering. Don't miss out on more than 350 wines in large formats that you'll find in our catalogue!