Wine Bottle Sizes

by Ian Blackshaw

When I was European In-House Legal Counsel for The Coca-Cola Company, the aim was to increase volume sales of Coke by increasing the sizes of the ‘packages’ and this continues to be their corporate objective!

With wine, production and volumes also count, but wine growers and producers are also very conscious of maintaining the quality of their products – over quantity. Over the years, various sizes of ‘packages’ – in other words, bottles – have been developed and are on sale.

We are all familiar with the standard bottle size of 750 ml and also half-bottles, which hold 375 ml and which are not, generally speaking, in such plentiful supply, except for desert wines, such as Sauternes. Likewise, even smaller bottles of 187ml, which are curiously known as ‘Splits’, are difficult to find.


Champagne bottles come in ten different sizes: Split, Half, Standard, Magnum, Jeroboam, Rehoboam, Methuselah, Salmanazar, Balthazar and, the mother of all champagne bottles: Nebuchadnezzar!

However, a Magnum, which holds two bottles or 1.5 litres are much more common and in demand for dinner parties and special occasions. However, watch out because – perhaps surprisingly – they cost more than the price of two bottles. One is paying for convenience!  The Double Magnum, as its name suggests, is twice the size of a Magnum, and holds 3.0 litres, or the equivalent of 4 bottles.

There are two sizes of Jeroboams: the sparkling wine Jeroboam holds 4 bottles, or 3.0 litres; whilst the still wine Jeroboam holds 6 regular bottles, or 4.5 litres.

The next size up is for Champagne only and is the Rehoboam, which holds
4.5 litres or 6 bottles.

Next comes the Imperial, which holds 6 litres of wine or the equivalent of 8 bottles. And this bottle tends to be Bordeaux-shaped.

On the other hand, the Methuselah, which is the same size as the Imperial,
holding 6 litres, is usually used for sparkling wines and is Burgundy-shaped.

Next, in order of size, is the Salmanazar, which holds 12 regular bottles (equivalent to one case): that is, 9.0 litres.

Then there is the Balthazar, which holds the equivalent of 16 bottles or 12.0 litres.

And last and by no means least, there is the Nebuchadnezzar. This monster holds the equivalent of 20 standard bottles of wine or 15.0 litres. The Concise Oxford Dictionary does not mention the word; whilst the Encarta World English Dictionary refers only to the Babylonian King! It is certainly a king size wine bottle and clearly for a regal occasion!

It is possible for special occasions, say a significant wedding anniversary, to have one of these big bottles with a special label marking the event. A nice touch and souvenir!

Have fun with these bottles!

The Theory of Evolution

The Theory of Evolution

By Geoffrey Dobson

Evolution is the theory that describes how complex organisms like us can have developed from simple organisms over thousands of years. This occurs as characteristics pass down through generations (Mendelism), while the species as a whole adapts to changes in the environment (Darwinism).

The idea that all species developed from simple organisms was first mooted by the Ancient Greeks, but was suppressed by religious leaders until being revived by philosophers in the late 18th century.   There have always been religious objections to the idea of evolution, as opposed to supernatural creation.   This dispute continues today, particularly in the USA, where an alternative theory of “intelligent design” has been proposed.

In 1859 Charles Darwin proposed that species could evolve by a process of adapting to their environment.   The central idea is that variations occur at random during reproduction.   Changes that are improvements to the species slowly become dominant and weaker variants die out (i.e. “Natural Selection” leading to “Survival of the Fittest”).    Some changes lead to new species (“branching”).   Darwin used fossil evidence to construct a diagram showing the progression from simple to a variety of complex organisms.   He based this diagram on the “Tree of Life”, an ancient religious symbol.   Similar but much more complex versions of the Tree of Life are still used today to illustrate the progress of evolution, including dozens of animal species, as well as plants, fungi, and single-celled life forms like bacteria.

While Darwin showed the relationships between differing species, he could not explain the mechanism of how characteristics pass between generations.   In 1865 Gregor Mendel developed the theory of genetics showing how generations develop in a predictable manner.   For a time the two theories were in conflict until in the 1920s Haldane combined them into a single theory of evolution.  In the 1940s the theory was confirmed by the discovery of DNA as the chemical molecule that controlled inherited traits, and was finally completed in 1953 when Crick and Watson identified the structure of DNA by X-ray analysis.

In summary, modern genetic theory assumes that the genes of a population of sexually interbreeding animals or plants constitute a gene pool.    New genes originate as a result of errors in copying, and spread through the gene pool by sexual mixing.   The strongest gene changes alter the species while weak ones die out.  Today the structure of individual “genomes” of many species (including humans) have been identified and genetic theory has become the basis of all modern biology.

When the earth was formed about 5000 million years ago, it had an atmosphere containing simple gases like water, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, oxygen and methane.   Violent electrical storms initiated chemical reactions in this mixture gradually forming a soup of more complex chemicals like amines and amino acids.   This has all been simulated in laboratory experiments but nobody knows how the next step happened – the creation of life.

About 4000 million years ago some of these complex chemicals developed the ability to self-replicate. Once self-replicating molecules had formed they combined in a random manner forming many different types of molecule.   These new molecules themselves replicated and, by natural selection, the most robust varieties became the dominant species.       Gradually the changes continued until complex self- reproducing molecules similar to DNA were formed.   It was then a short step to the formation of proteins and hence simple living cells.

By about 3000 million years ago, simple bacteria existed on Earth.   The rest of evolution continued by replicator molecules (genes), building for themselves multi-cellular bodies to enable their own preservation and reproduction.    Richard Dawkins called this the progress of “The Selfish Gene”.   By about 500 million years ago simple vertebrate fishes had developed.   However, the progress of evolution did not run smoothly.   There have been five periods of mass extinction during Earth’s history, probably caused by massive volcanic activity.   The first two (450 and 360 million years ago) wiped out most of the new life in the oceans, but the species that survived continued to evolve.

About 300 million years ago amphibians began to colonise the land areas.   Then about 250 million years ago the « Permian Mass Extinction » again wiped out 96 percent of all life.   Fungi, insects and bacteria survived but among the animals, only a few amphibian creatures were left.   These evolved over time into mammals, birds and, importantly, giant reptiles.  The rule of the dinosaurs began about 200 million years ago.   Mammals remained small and lived underground to escape the dinosaurs.   The dinosaur age came to an abrupt end 65 million years ago when a giant asteroid collision triggered another volcanic storm that destroyed all surface life.   An ice age followed which, on melting, formed the landscape as we know it today with large areas savannah grassland surrounded by dense forest.

The extinction of the dinosaurs unleashed the rapid evolution of the surviving mammals into the rich variety of species that we see today.   The first primates developed in the great forests of Africa about 50 million years ago, and about 5 million years ago the great apes appeared.   The first upright walking apes arrived about 3 million years ago.  About 2.4 million years ago the first primitive human-like primates (homo habilis) emerged from the forests and became hunter-gatherers on the great savannahs of Africa.

Homo habilis developed the ability to make flint tools and weapons.   The Stone Age had begun.   Over the next 500 000 years Homo habilis slowly became more adept, learning new skills like making fire and cooking.  They evolved into Homo erectus who began to migrate out of Africa.   They were hunter-gatherers, there was only a small population, and there was plenty of food around so they thrived.   Their era lasted until about 70 000 years ago.   There were many local variations in climate during this age and Homo erectus developed into at least five different species of human types including the Neanderthals in Europe about 350 000 years ago, and Homo sapiens (our ancestors) who appeared in North Africa about 200 000 years ago.

About 70 000 years ago the climate changed again into a very severe glacial period that lasted until 15 000 years ago when there was a rapid melt.   The Neanderthals and most other human species did not survive this ice age, but Homo sapiens developed survival skills and became the dominant human species.   They started to spread throughout the world colonising Russia about 50 000 years ago, moving into Europe about 30 000 years ago and finally the Americas about 25 000 years ago.   Most of the large animal species also did not survive the ice age and so Homo sapiens were forced to become farmers to maintain their food supplies.   Villages developed and the Neolithic Age had begun with the germs of modern civilisation.

Simplified scheme of human evolution

Oh No! It’s That Time of Year.

I looked out of the window this morning and realised that I could no longer put off the dreaded onslaught of spring gardening. Oh how I hate the concept of working outdoors; I find the whole gardening business tedious, uncomfortable, mucky in the extreme and thoroughly boring.  Perhaps this attitude stems from the fact that I was brought up in the concrete jungle of London and as such am missing something.

You see, I never intended to make gardening part of my retirement, when we first moved to our present house in the heady days of 1.45 to the Pound, we employed a local man. He came to work in the garden at least once a week leaving little for us to do. Then Sterling slumped and like everyone else we looked for ways to economise and guess what the gardener was the first to go.

At first both my husband and I tried to ignore the untidiness of our two and a half acres hoping that the Pound would rally. It didn’t of course instead it sank lower and lower so eventually we fell into a division of labour which gave him the mowing of the lawns and me the flower beds and the paths.

My first experience was clipping the heads off the hydrangeas. Being a gung ho sort of a gal I thought that it would be a few hours work and then – “job done”.  No such luck we have more than 70 of the blasted things and it took me almost 4 days. I then knew that I needed help fast and it had to be cheap.

RES came to the rescue. This is a superb system that is, in my opinion practical and very, very French because it is simple and it works. I know of two offices, Fruges and Montreuil, it’s government run so I guess the workers are civil servants but they do not seem to have that “fonctionnaire” mind set. Basically the helpers are from the dole queue, they cost between 14 and 18 Euros per hour depending on their level of skill. In my experience they are good workers, honest and reliable with the added bonus of being insured, legal and available on an ad hoc basis.

RES send an invoice monthly and then at the end of the tax year (for certain jobs) you get half the cost knocked off the bottom line of your income tax bill. It is this part of the system that makes them affordable. You can choose from a plethora of workers including gardeners, cleaners, carpenters and painters.  You can even request the same person each time as I do with Jean-Luc my garden buddy whom I have got to know quite well. He corrects my French and teaches me new words so I am getting more out of it than just a willing worker.

I have got used to the hard graft of gardening and whilst I will never enjoy it I get the satisfaction of a good job done and I use up some calories too.

Climate Fear!

penguinsAt the Manoir du Moonlight the heating oil situation is giving cause for concern.  The winter has been so prolonged, with temperatures rarely above +50C and often below freezing that unless the weather warms up soon our private heating oil well might run dry sometime before May.

The long cold winter has left Professor Moonlight in some confusion.  He is not a believer in man-made global warming. Indeed he is convinced we’re in for a period of 20 or 30 years of gradual cooling, so he is not surprised by this long cold winter, but he is now torn between feelings of smug satisfaction that nature seems to be bearing out his forecast, and the icy fear that in the near future he may be proved all too correct!

The Professor is now looking into the possibility of moving to North Africa which he reckons will soon be empty, as its current inhabitants all seem to want to move to Britain.

Ex-pat Pronunciation

I find it very amusing the way we expats pronounce French names when we are speaking English, it seems to be very personal.  Take shops for instance, I am a member of the half and half group giving  Champion a sort of “shompion” sound.  Intermarché comes out as “antermarshay” and Picard definitely does not have a d at the end.  However almost universally we Brits over-anglicise Leroy Merlin. Perhaps that’s because we seem to know him; for me he is so very familiar. He’s a real “cool dood” living in Loughborough Junction driving a Jaguar XJ6 with a sound system that absolutely fills the boot (which is of no consequence as he wouldn’t be seen dead in Sainsbury’s).

Seriously though, it is a tricky business if we completely pronounce names in the English fashion it seems arrogant but if we say them as they are meant to sound we are in danger of appearing “know it all” or even prissy.

I suppose this dilemma stems from the days of the “Grand Tour” which was the traditional exploration of Europe undertaken by mainly upper class young men of means. The practice flourished from about 1650 until the advent of large scale rail transit in the early 19th century making travel easier and more accessible. Before then I think these privileged young men came back peppering their language with foreign phrases and idioms baffling those less fortunate souls who had been left behind. This is how the air of mystery and self aggrandisement began and it has been perpetuated, mostly by a tribe of somewhat effected individuals whose grasp of French extends only to a few odd phrases.

Take lingerie for instance pronounced by some as “lojeray” and used to describe fancy underwear. This is quite wrong the word should sound like “lanjeree” and as well as being an old fashioned word for undergarments it can also mean laundry room.  The upside of this one however is that it does throw a new, rather laughable light on UK department store signage.

Personally I am particularly irritated by the Nestlay brigade, oh, how they love to refer to their chocolate emphasising the acute accent, when even the British distributor refers to the brand plainly as Nestles. Then there is the “ mal de mer mob” imagine them reporting a fault on the telephone line to France Telecom or getting the right kind of treatment at the dentist.

All in all I have decided to just say what I am comfortable with and to hell with those who judge me by my pronunciation. After all what is important is that we try our best to help ourselves to make our lives here run smoothly, without expecting the French to learn English.


by Ian Blackshaw

cronquelet1This is a country inn, near Saint-Josse, with good honest country cooking using fine locally sourced ingredients – the mark of fine French cuisine bourgeoise! It has been described as ‘a home from home’ and you will certainly receive a very warm welcome from the chef-patron, Jean-Pierre, a well-travelled bon viveur!

You will eat in a rustic dining-room, adorned with an eclectic assortment of antiques and good taste bric a brac and be served by the faithful Philippe-Konan, from the Ivory Coast.

A large earthen-wear pot of homemade country pate will appear on your table with freshly-baked crusty French bread and gherkins and you will be encouraged to eat as much as you can – it comes gratis as part of the welcome! We often have this as our starter, but, in fact, there some nine starters to choose from! There are eleven main courses and a fine desserts trolley, the latter comprising some half-a-dozen delights to choose from, including a tasty rice pudding! And, if you are still hungry at the end of the meal, you can choose a little of each and make up your own ‘assiette gourmande’!

The food is complemented by a small and selective but good wine list and the prices are reasonable.

The signature dish of the house is magret de canard – one of my favourite French dishes, and, being close to the coast (la cote d’opale), there is also fresh fish on the menu.

cronquelet2For a two course menu with a good bottle of wine, expect to pay about €75 for two persons.

If you are planning to go there at the weekend, you will need to reserve a table, as the restaurant is very popular, especially for Sunday lunch!

There is also a separate dining-room, the site of the old communal forge, and known as ‘l’ancienne forge’, which can accommodate up to 50 people for special lunches, dinners or receptions.

The restaurant is closed on Tuesdays.

Contact details:

L’Auberge du Cronquelet

3, rue de Montreuil


by Ian Blackshaw

About 10 kilometres north of Hesdin in the sleepy historical village of Fressin, there is a veritable modern Aladdin’s cave. Stocked with French wine treasures: well worth visiting and buying.

It rejoices under the name of ‘Les Caves du Vieux Chai’. A ‘Chai’ in this context is a depot for the storage of wine and this ‘Chai’ boasts 100,000 bottles of wine. All are personally selected from vineyards throughout France and the proprietors boast that the ‘Chai’ has been doing so for a century!

They have a very fine selection of French wines to suit every taste and every purse, including carton red, white and rose wine, and twice a year hold a wine fair (‘salon du vin’) for three days, at which you can taste their wines under the expert and watchful eye of knowledgeable sommeliers and growers (viticulteurs).

They also claim that their prices are very competitive with those of other wine outlets offering a similar range of quality wines. And they deliver bulk orders free of charge within the Departments of the Pas de Calais, Du Nord and La Somme.

In due course, they will be offering examples of the 2009 vintage, which promises, by all accounts, to be “exceptionnelle”! Well worth drinking some bottles and keeping the rest!

They have just set up their own website – sections of which are still under construction – at Eventually, you will be able to make a virtual tour of their establishment and order on line. Be that as it may, there can be no real substitute for a real-time visit in person!

You can taste a number of their wines at several local restaurants, including ‘Le Secret Garden’ in Fressin – opposite the ‘Chai’ – and at ‘Le Fournil’ in Coupelle Vieille, including the proprietor’s own claret (a Bordeaux Superieur), Chateau La Bruyere, the 2005 vintage of which is very good indeed!

They also offer a select range of whisky and eaux de vie, including the regional gin (genievre) from Houlle – not for the faint-hearted!

They are open from Monday to Saturday from 9 – 12 30 and 14 – 18 30 and accept a number of credit cards for payment.

Contact Details:

Les Caves du Vieux Chai, 20 Grand rue, 62140 Fressin Tel: 03 21 90 61 43

The Information Highway (slow lane)

winston the pigeonA South African IT company recently gave a convincing demonstration of the shortcomings in the country’s internet services, proving that a carrier pigeon could deliver data faster than Telkom, the local telecommunications giant.

Winston, an 8 month old pigeon, took one hour and eight minutes to transport a memory card from one of the company’s branches to another 50 miles away.  The total time taken for the transfer of the data from to the remote computer was 2 hours 6 minutes 57 seconds.  In the same period Telkom managed to transfer only 4% of the data.

Previously Orange Fr had been thought by many Frogsiders to be the world’s worst ISP.  They now face stiff competition for their lowly position from Telkom of South Africa.

Join the French Resistance to EU Officialdom!

From: French Annette

Scandaleux, tout simplement.  Envoyez ceci aux Européens que vous connaissez !!!

La retraite à 50 ans avec 9.000 euros par mois pour les  fonctionnaires de l’UE a été approuvée.  Cette année, 340 fonctionnaires partent à la retraite anticipée à  50 ans avec une pension de 9.000 Euros par mois.  Oui, vous avez bien lu!

Afin d’aider l’intégration de nouveaux fonctionnaires des nouveaux états membres de l’UE (Pologne, Malte, pays de l’Est…), les fonctionnaires des anciens pays membres (Belgique, France, Allemagne..) recevront de l’Europe un pont d’or pour partir à la retraite. Pourquoi? Et Qui paie cela?

Vous et moi travaillons ou avons travaillé pour une pension de misère, alors que ceux qui votent les lois se font des cadeaux dorés. La différence est devenue trop importante entre le peuple et les “dieux de l’Olympe” ! REAGISSONS par tous les moyens en commençant par divulguer ce message à tous les Européens.

Françoise Holterbach C.C.A.S. Mairie de Guebwiller – poste 215
Mélanie BARTHLY Service Marchés Publics Mairie de Guebwiller

The Beginning of the End for Global Warming?

Have you noticed how the warmists are rapidly backing away from their former positions of absolute certainty that man-made global warming was being caused by our carbon dioxide emissions alone?

Now suddenly we are hearing the warmers announcing that “climate change” is probably happening, and that even if it’s not actually getting warmer we ought to cut down on our carbon emissions for other very good reasons, anyway because their continued use could pose some sort of unspecified long term danger to life on Earth.

Isn’t that what we doubters have been saying all along?  So, after telling us we were idiots and flat-earthers for so long, some of the warmists are now trying to hijack our moderate and considered position, and tell us that’s what they really meant from the start.

This morning on BBC Breakfast, even the woman who apparently devised the Global Carbon Credit Exchange system, by which people like Al Gore and Robert Mugabe are hoping to get fabulously rich,(but which doesn’t actaully reduce carbon fuel usage) would not state categorically that there was any global warming, man-made or otherwise.  But she did say that if we didn’t cut down on carbon fuels the Gulf Stream could reverse and put Britain under a sheet of ice.  The warming scare suddenly became, without a hint of a blush, the global freezing scare!

It would be hysterically funny if not for the fact that Gordon Brown’s incompetent gang have fallen hook, line and sinker for the myth and have already paid out hundreds of millions of taxpayers money in the carbon credits scam.

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