There’s no shortage of official names to memorize in the wine world. You could spend a lifetime learning about wine (and some people do) without ever really learning it all. As if the grape names, regions, historical dates and tasting notes weren’t enough wrap your mind around, in comes the official names of various bottle sizes. It’s not sufficient to just know how many litres they hold, it’s time to get familiar with their historical — and often Biblical — official names as well as how many standard bottles of wine each giant bottle holds.it’s time to get familiar with their historical — and often Biblical — official names as well as how many standard bottles of wine each giant bottle holds.
Why do most giant wine bottles have biblical names?
Wine experts can’t seem to agree entirely on why the large format bottles are named after men in the bible. It’s possible because they were seen to have great worth, but that might be more myth than fact. However, most wine experts believe it originated in Champagne with the Jeroboam in the 1700s. As Champagne houses created larger bottles, they continued to use the names of biblical kings.
What is the purpose behind making wine bottles so large?
In short — giant wine bottles are designed for ageing! It is believed that larger vessels are better for aging and storing in a cellar for longer periods of time.
What is a regular or standard bottle size?
A regular bottle of wine holds 750 mL, or about 5 standard glasses of wine.
What are the names of Large Format bottles?
1. Jeroboam = 3 litres or 4 standard wine bottles
Jeroboam was the first king of the kingdom of Israel, but he got the kingdom by rebelling and splitting the nation after King Solomon’s death. Some would say that the rebellion was justified because Solomon’s son was gouging the people with taxes. However, once Jeroboam separated he placed idols in the northern city of Bethel, which meant the people starting worshipping these idols and no longer made pilgrimage to Jerusalem. This eventually led to their exile. Jeroboam ruled from 931-910 BCE.
Jeroboam wine bottles for still wines have 6 standard bottles, but in Champagne they are 4 standard bottles. In the USA and Bordeaux, you will find Jeroboams that are 5 litres, but still called Jeroboams.
2. Rehoboam = 4.5 litres or 6 standard wine bottles
Rehoboam was the son of Solomon and while his dad was a great leader, he was not. He taxed the people and ignored their requests which lead to the revolt and split of the nation led by Jeroboam above. After the rebellion, he remained the king of the Kingdom of Judea.
Wine Rehoboam bottles are only used for sparkling wines perhaps an nod to the Biblical Rehoboam’s luxurious ways.
3. Methuselah = 6 litres or 8 standard wine bottles
Methuselah is mentioned in Abrahamic traditions as the link between Adam and Noah. He is recorded as the man who lived the longest at 969 years old. According to history, he died the day before that famous flood (ie: Noah’s Ark).
Methuselah wine bottles could have been given this name as a tip of the hat to the health benefits of wine for a very, very long life, or perhaps because of something to do with the length of time spent ageing wine.
Note: if a 6 litre bottle holds Bordeaux Wine it is called an Imperial, not a Methuselah.
4. Salmanazar = 9 litres or 12 standard wine bottles
Biblical Salmanazar was the first name of 5 different Assyrian kings, the last of whom conquered the kingdom of Israel and sent the 10 tribes into exile.
Wine Salmanazar has no particular requirements.
5. Balthazar = 12 litres or 16 standard wine bottles
This name has two possibilities. Balthazar was the name of one of the three wise men who brought baby Jesus gifts at birth. Another option was the Babylonian King Balthazar who arrogantly held a feast while the city was under siege by the Persians because he believed the walls to the city were impenetrable. To make matters worse when he ran out of wine and had his people bring wine from the temple in Jerusalem. When you hear the expression “see the writing on the wall” it originates from this story. At the feast, writing appeared on the wall written in Aramaic. The writing foretold the fall of the Babylonians to the Persians. The so called “impenetrable” wall was breached that same night.
6. Nebuchadnezzar = 15 litres or 20 standard bottles
Nebuchadnezzar (605 — 562 BCE) was the Babylonian king who squashed the rebellion in the kingdom of Judea and exiled the last two Israelite tribes from the land of Israel in 587 BCE. The night he destroyed the temple that King Solomon had built, it is said that he dreamed of his own downfall and eventually went insane.
7. Melchior = 18 litres or 23 standard wine bottles
Like Balthazar, Melchior was one of the three wise men who came to give gifts to Jesus. There was a third wise man, Gaspar, who does not have a wine bottle named after him!
8. Solomon = 20 litres or 27 standard Champagne bottles
King Solomon is known as one of the wisest kings of Israel and the last king to rule over all 12 tribes. His peaceful reign enabled him to build the temple in Jerusalem.
Solomon wine bottles are only used for Champagne.
9. Sovereign = 25 litres or 33 standard wine bottles
Although in some religions, Sovereign may be a term used for God or gods, the roots of this name (like the Imperial) are not likely biblical or even historical. A Sovereign wine bottle is reportedly 3 feet tall with the most famous one created by the Taittinger Champagne House, to honor the first sailing of the Sovereign of the Seas. This famous cruise liner launched in 1988, and at the time was the largest boat in existence.
10. Goliath = 27 litres or 36 standard wine bottles
Goliath is known to most people in the story of David and Goliath. He was the unbeatable Philistine giant who challenged the nation of Israel and was defeated by young future king David. Goliath was defeated with a sling shot and a rock, or so the story goes.
Taking down a Goliath of Champagne is certainly not a feat for one person, no matter how royal you believe you are.
11. Melchizedek or Midas = 30 litres or 40 standard wine bottles
The idea that this size bottle has two different names is interesting as the men they represent have two very different ideals. Melchizedek who’s name in Hebrew means my righteous or just king was a famous high priest who apparently lived a perfect and completely righteous life. Midas on the other hand is the famous king from Greek mythology turned everything he touched into gold. Hence the phrase “the Midas touch.” However appealing this may seem, the moral of the story of Midas is actually a warning not to be greedy. Sadly, at the end of the story he turns his own daughter into gold.
It’s a good idea to share a Midas bottle of wine. 40 bottles of wine to one person is a bit greedy, don’t you think?
Not everyone follows these “standards” for large format bottle sizes and names.
There are exceptions to every rule, especially in the wine industry. Special bottles have been made for various cuvées (blends) or special vintages of Champagne and still wines. Every Champagne house and winery has choices they can make when it comes to bottling so sometimes they take liberties when it comes to a unique offering. However, generally speaking the names and sizes listed above are widely accepted in the wine world.