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
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
Sizes of Different Wine Bottle Formats
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"
Equal to: 1/2
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
Standard or Regular Bottle
Equal to: 1
standard bottle (of course!)
Best for: everyday drinking. Almost all wines come in this format, so this is the staple
Equal to: 2 standard
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
Double Magnum Bottle
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.)
Equal to: 6 standard
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
(Note: in regions where a Jeraboam is a 3L bottle, this size is called a
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
Size: 9L, 12L, and 15L
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
What's the biggest bottle size you've
ever had wine from? Share your experience with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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