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!