In matters of wine, as in life, I’m a firm believer in quality over quantity and that good things come in small packages. So it doesn’t necessarily matter how big the bottle of wine is as long as what’s inside is delicious.
That said, it pays to know just how much wine you’re getting when you do order a large-format bottle. Plus, many of these seem to have the silliest names possible derived from the Bible, so you can sound both effervescent and educated while discoursing on them at your next dinner party. Now pop open that Salmanazar and let’s begin!
Let’s start small and work our way up.
Split or Piccolo: These are just 187.5 milliliters, or about a quarter of a bottle of wine, and are generally used for Champagne.
Demi-bouteille: As the name means in French, a half-bottle, at 375 milliliters.
Bottle: This is your standard 750-milliliter bottle.
Magnum: At 1.5 liters, this holds 2 bottles of wine, for when one just won’t do.
Double Magnum: Literally, a double magnum, it holds 4 bottles’ worth of wine, or 3 liters.
Jeroboam: With still wine, this is a 6-bottle bottle that holds 4.5 liters, though if we’re talking Champagne, it holds 3 liters, or just 4 bottles. The Jeroboam for whom it is named was the first king of Israel after it revolted from Judah.
Rehoboam: This is a bottle size just for Champagne and holds 4.5 liters, or 6 bottles’ worth. In the Bible, Rehoboam was the son of King Solomon and the last to rule a united Israel and Judah.
Imperial/Methuselah: These two names refer to the same size – 6 liters, or 8 bottles of wine. The difference is in shape. Imperials tend to be shaped like Bordeaux bottles while Methuselahs are Burgundy-shaped, usually hold sparkling wines, and refer to Noah’s long-lived grandfather.
Salmanazar: Now we’re getting to the big boys. This size holds 9 liters, or 12 regular bottles (the equivalent of a case!). It is named after an Assyrian king. Or rather, five Assyrian kings of the same name. However, it probably refers to Shalmaneser V, who, though only ruling for five years, conquered the kingdom of Israel.
Balthazar: Named for a Babylonian prince (or one of the three wise men), this baby holds the equivalent of 16 bottles of wine, or 12 liters.
Nebuchadnezzar: This monster holds a whopping 15 liters of liquid, equivalent to 20 bottles. It’s named after the legendary king of Babylon of hanging garden fame.
Melchior: This was apparently one of the three wise men from the New Testament, though these days, it refers to a format that holds 18 liters, or 24 bottles.
Solomon: If you’re as wise as this Biblical king, you’ll know that the format that bears his name holds 20 liters, or 26.7 bottles.
Sovereign: Holds a kingly amount of wine – 25 liters, or 33.3 bottles.
Primat/Goliath: Of course a bottle named after a legendary giant is, well, enormous. It holds 27 liters, or 36 bottles.
Melchizedek/Midas: A rare reference to Greek mythology rather than the Bible, this mega-bottle holds 30 liters, or 40 standard bottles of wine.
To put this in a different perspective, here’s how many standard bottles of wine each size holds:
1: Bottle, duh
4: Double Magnum
With so many sizes and so many names, I have yet to think of a handy mnemonic device to remember them all. But if you parse one out, be sure to let me know what it is by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or tweeting me @clustercrush!