Wine Bottle Size Guide
27 September 2022
We all know the traditional 750 ml wine bottle and its iconic shape with straight sides and square shoulders. But did you know that there are dozens of different sizes available?
Balthazar, Salmanazar, Piccolo; they all have their own names. In this quick guide, our wine experts walk you through everything you need to know about wine bottles, their sizes and their names.
Why are standard wine bottles 750 ml in size?
The standard size of a wine bottle is 750 ml. This size was officially established in 1866 to facilitate trade between the French and the English (who were the main customers of French wineries).
At the time, the measurement systems (in litres for the French and in gallons for the English) were a source of misunderstanding during trade. The imperial gallon is equivalent to 4.54609 litres, which made conversions from one measure to the other laborious.
In order to avoid complications during the conversion, the two counties agreed that 225 litres of wine would be transported in a barrel, which is equivalent to 50 gallons when rounded up. The objective was to come up with a round number.
These 225 litre barrels produced 300 750 ml bottles of wine. Setting the capacity of a standard bottle at 750 ml solved the conversion problem and facilitated exchanges.
The 750 ml bottles were then standardized and introduced on a European and worldwide scale. One gallon corresponds to 6 bottles, which is why most cases of wine are sold in lots of 6 or 12 bottles.
Wine bottle size names according to capacity
Wine bottles come in a variety of shapes and sizes, each with a unique name. Their capacities are very specific, corresponding to a certain type of consumption.
The smallest size is the Piccolo, which contains only 20 ml of wine, or 1.5 glasses. The next size is the half-bottle, which contains 375 ml of wine, followed by the standard bottle, which contains 750 ml. After that is the Magnum, which holds 1.5 litres, and then the Jeroboam, which holds 3 litres. The next largest wine bottles are the Rehoboam, with a capacity of 4.5 litres, the Methuselah, which contains 6 litres, and the Salmanazar which holds 9 litres. The following 3 are even bigger: Balthazar (12 litres), Nebuchadnezzar (15 litres) and Melchior (18 litres). Finally, although hard to come by, you can also sometimes find the Melchizedek which holds 30 litres of wine.
Do you have a passion for collecting wine bottles and want to invest in a wine cabinet? Read our buying guide on finding the perfect wine fridge for you.
Summary of wine bottle names and capacities
Number of glasses
How important is the size of a wine bottle?
Wine bottle size is not only a question of aesthetics and price. Beyond these two aspects, bottle size also plays an essential role for ensuring wine is kept in optimal storage conditions. The larger the bottle, the better the wine will keep.
For a wine to be well preserved, it is necessary to avoid any sudden change in temperature that could alter the quality of the wine and contribute to poor aging. Therefore, larger bottles are more advantageous since the larger the bottle, the longer it will take for the liquid in it to change temperature.
The wine contained in a large bottle is also less likely to oxidize than wine in a smaller bottle. This is because the effects of ambient air entering via the cork aren’t as strong when there is more wine present.
Vinum Design: your wine accessories expert
There are nearly a dozen different sizes of wine bottles, each with a unique name. The size of the bottle you choose will most likely depend on several factors, including occasion, storage time and personal preference.
At Vinum Design, we offer a wide selection of wine accessories to help wine lovers live out their dreams.
Our top products include our wine glasses, wine racks, and wine decanters. You can find everything you need on our website or in our Quebec stores.