The extensive range of wine bottle sizes has its roots in the early to mid 1700s when it was discovered that cork acted as a sealing agent, allowing wine to age and not spoil. Larger bottles allow wine to age over longer periods of time, and are therefore particularly suited to longer aging wines, such as Bordeaux.
Larger bottles let the wine develop a more nuanced flavour and a deeper complexity than a smaller wine bottle, resisting temperature changes more easily. Bigger wine bottles require specialised racking with wider spacing for safer storage, and serve to give a home a distinguished look.
Every bottle has a name, commonly biblically inspired. The most unique Champagne bottle size, however, earned the eponymous nickname, The Winston Churchill, after the Wartime Prime Minister. It held precisely 20 ounces (around 570ml), the amount of Champagne the famous statesman considered perfect in the morning.
Quarter Bottle, Half Bottle, Standard Bottle, Magnum
The Quarter Bottle, also known as Piccolo, holds 187ml of wine; it’s the equivalent to a quarter of a bottle or to a glass of wine. Half Bottle is also called Demi or Split and it is, unsurprisingly, half a bottle of wine, holding 375ml. A Standard bottle holds 750ml and remains the most popular size, while a Magnum is a 1.5 litre bottle, or the size of two standard bottles.
Jeroboam, Rehoboam, Methuselah, Salmanzar
A Jeroboam, or a Double Magnum, holds 3 litres of wine (four bottles), where a Bordeaux Jeroboam holds 5 litres. A Rehoboam holds 4.5 litres (six bottles), a Methuselah holds 8 litres (eight bottles), and a Salmanzar holds 9 litres (twelve bottles).
Balthazar, Nebuchanezzar, Melchior, Solomon
A Balthazar bottle can hold up to 12 litres (16 bottles) while a Nebuchadnezzar holds 15 litres (20 bottles) and weighs around a massive 83.5 pounds. Even more impressive, a Melchior can hold 18 litres (24 bottles) with the Solomon bottles holding 20 litres (26 bottles).
Sovereign, Primat or Goliath, Melchizedek
Towards the end of the wine bottle scale is the Sovereign bottle, which can hold a staggering 25 litres (33.3 bottles). Although, not to be beaten, and while much rarer, a Primat or Goliath weighs 143 pounds and can hold 27 litres (36 bottles).
Finally, right at the end of the wine bottle size scale, a Melchizedek is the king of all wine bottles, holding a fantastic 30 litres (40 bottles).As you can imagine, these wine bottle giants require a specialised cellar; the Melchizedek stands at an impressive 4 feet tall and can serve 240 glasses of wine, and can be worth £4,000.
The most used bottles are the Bordeaux bottle – with tall shoulders, straight sides, and deep punt – and the Burgundy bottle – wider than Bordeaux bottles, with sloping shoulders and a deep punt. However, as discussed, the most popular bottle remains the Standard, mirroring the 750ml Bordeaux bottle.
While your cellar is more likely to be filled with the standard bottle, larger sizes are considered to be the perfect accompaniment for a particularly special event. Their collectible and unique nature makes them a rare and special addition to any collection.
Here at Spiral Cellars we have a wide variety of exceptional wine cellars designed by our highly-skilled team of in-house craftsmen to accommodate your collection, whether that be standard or Salmanzar bottles. If you have any questions about the services we provide, contact us on 0203 815 3329 to speak with our highly-trained team. You can also follow our news on our Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ pages.