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Guide to Wine Bottle Sizes

little to large: what they're for, and when to serve them

Guide to Wine Bottle Sizes

While most wines are bottled and sold in 750 ml format, there is a whole range of different bottle sizes out there. This includes bottles smaller than a 750 ml as well as bottles that are much, much larger. So why don't wines come 'one size fits all'? The other bottle sizes are handy for different purposes, and in fact the size of the bottle can improve how the wine ages.

Wine Bottle Sizes & Aging

The reason wine ages is due to exposure to oxygen, and most of this  happens through the closure at the top of the bottle. Corks, after all, are porous! Large format bottles have a lower ratio proportionately of neck diameter to volume, meaning less air can get in over time. In fact, Magnum bottles (1.5L) and standard bottles (750ml) share the same neck diameter, so many collectors prefer Magnum bottles because the wine ends up aging more slowly, and some say more gracefully.

Opening Large Format Wine Bottles

Dealing with opening and serving a half-bottle (375ml) or Magnum (1.5L) is pretty much the same as with a standard bottle. However, once you get up into the 3L large format size and up, things get more complicated. The corks get a lot wider, and opening them with a standard opener just doesn't work - you'll usually end up ripping the heart out of the cork and leaving most of it behind. What you really need to use is a two-pronged wine opener, called an 'Ah-So'. You start by inserting the longer prong all the way around the cork to break the seal, then once the top of the Ah-So is touching the cork, gently rock it while pulling up to slowly raise the cork out of the neck. It can take a bit of practice but it's your best bet!

Names & Sizes of Different Wine Bottle Formats

Piccolo Bottle

Size: 187.5ml
Equal to: 1/4 bottle
Best for: one person who just wants one glass. These are generally found at restaurants, particularly for sparkling wine. Usually lesser-quality wines.

Half Bottle, or "Split"

Size: 375ml
Equal to: 1/2 standard bottle
Best for: Since it holds about two glasses, it's good when you don't plan to finish a whole bottle, or when you want to enjoy a half of a nice white and a half of a nice red over dinner.

Standard or Regular Bottle

Size: 750ml
Equal to: 1 standard bottle (of course!)
Best for: everyday drinking. Almost all wines come in this format, so this is the staple bottle size.

Magnum Bottle

Size: 1.5L
Equal to: 2 standard bottles
Best for: enjoying with a small group, such as a dinner party. If you're having 4-6 guests, this can be a reasonable bottle size to serve. Plus the big bottle just makes everything more festive!

Double Magnum Bottle

Size: 3L
Equal to: 4 standard bottles
Best for: A larger dinner party, such as 8-12 guests. If you have a mixed group that doesn't all want to drink wine, or the same wine, you may not want to open one unless you have 14 guests or more.
(Note: in some regions, this size is called a Jeraboam.)

Jeraboam Bottle

Size: 4.5L
Equal to: 6 standard bottles
Best for: A good-sized gathering, such as 16-24 guests. We opened one of these at Amy's 30th birthday party - everyone got a kick out of the big bottle, and needless to say the wine was tasty!
(Note: in regions where a Jeraboam is a 3L bottle, this size is called a Rehoboam.)

Imperial Bottle

Size: 6L
Equal to: 9 standard bottles
Best for: You'd better have a really big party, like 24-30 guests. Seriously this bottle is going to be big.

Salamanazar, Balthazar, and Nebuchadnezzar Bottles

Size: 9L, 12L, and 15L respectively
Equal to: 12, 16 and 20 standard bottles respectively
Best for: a really, really big party - something like a wedding. Not only is there going to be a LOT of wine, but you really need someone professional to help serve from these extra-extra big bottles. They're heavy, awkward, and you may even need to buy a special cradle to pour the wine from.

What's the biggest bottle size you've ever had wine from? Share your experience with us at amyandmike@easyfoodandwine.com

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