Wine Bottle Sizes
The art of making and enjoying wine has been around for thousands of years but the wine bottle as we know it today is a much more recent invention.
In the Egyptian and Grecian era of winemaking wine was stored in clay bottles and it was the Romans who introduced glass-blowing techniques and glass bottles to the wine industry.
But it wasn’t until the 19th century that bottles could be manufactured to anything like a standardized size.
The difficulty of selling wine in highly variable quantities and growing international commercial pressures from countries such as the USA lead to attempts to standardize bottle sizes.
The USA finally settled on 750ml bottles as the standard in 1979 and this size has been largely adopted by other countries as well in order to facilitate trade.
Another key aspect of wine bottle design is the shape of the bottle.
And this too went through a lengthy evolution before arriving at the modern standard ideal for both wine storage and aging the wine: a long cylindrical glass bottle with a narrow neck and a cork.
Yet, we still see a myriad of bottle sizes and shapes and these have developed for a wide range of reasons such as to distinguish one wine from another and convenience.
Large format wine bottles are preferred for aging fine wines over a longer period. Oxygen and sulphur dioxide can have a negative impact on the aging process.
In larger bottles the ratio of oxygen and sulphur dioxide to wine is much smaller and this allows the wine to age more slowly and develop a greater richness of nuances.
The wine in larger bottles is also less susceptible to damaging temperature fluctuations.
Let’s take a look at all the different wine bottle sizes in more detail.
|Capacity||Name||Description||Amount of glasses|
|187.5ml||Split or Piccolo||Usually for single glasses of Champagne||1|
|375ml||Half or Demi||Holds half a standard size bottle||2|
|750ml||Standard||Universal bottle size for most wines around the World||5|
|1.5L||Magnum||Double the standard bottle||10|
|3.0L||Double Magnum||Two Magnums or four standard bottles||20|
|4.5L||Jeroboam||Six standard bottles||30|
|6.0L||Imperial||Eight standard bottles or two Double Magnums||40|
|9.0L||Salmanazar||Twelve standard bottles||60|
|12.0L||Balthazar||Sixteen standard bottles or two Imperials||80|
|15.0L||Nebuchadnezzar||Twenty standard bottles||100|
187.5 ml Piccolo or Split
The piccolo (Italian for small) is typically used for champagne and looks exactly like a miniature champagne bottle.
The piccolo or split equates to quarter of a standard 750ml bottle or one tulip champagne glass.
It’s a convenient size at celebrations and parties especially for those who don’t want to open a full bottle of champagne but who want to take part in the festivities.
The split may also be used for some wines although it’s not a very economical size for a wine maker.
However, you can see the advantages for the restaurateur and the consumer, as it allows them to sample a wine before buying a full bottle.
The reality is the bigger the bottle the better for the aging process. In smaller bottles the percentage of oxygen making contact with the wine is much higher than in a larger bottle.
And the equation is simple: more oxygen reacting with your wine = more potential damage to the wine quality.
So, the Piccolo is never going to be a great way to age a fine wine but it certainly is a great way to celebrate.
You might also find the piccolo size bottle called by other names such as, ‘snipe’ or ‘pony’.
375 ml Demi or Half
As the name suggests the 375ml or half is half the volume of a standard bottle of wine and is the equivalent of two glasses of wine.
The demi is great for two people to share and sample a wine or for where one glass isn’t quite enough but a full bottle is too much.
The Half is a very convenient size that allows vineyards to promote their products but half bottles do tend to be a little more expensive than a standard sized bottle of the same wine.
This is because of the obvious higher cost of bottle production per volume of wine sold.
Half bottles make a great addition to your wine collection too because they allow you to increase the variety of wines in your cellar without blowing the budget or over committing to a smaller ranger of standard sized wines.
The 375ml bottle is also a convenient size in small sample cases featuring a range of wines. These make a wonderful gift idea for any wine lover.
Half or Demi bottles are also popular in many restaurants, as they allow a customer to sample new wines without the cost of ordering a full bottle.
The price of a full bottle can be especially intimidating when ordering from a high-price range wine list and the availability of half bottles may be enough to swing the customer away from ordering a cheaper option.
They are also a handy size to put in your bag when going out for dinner. This can be invaluable as it allows you to take a number of different wines and avoids the age-old dilemma of choosing the right wine especially when you’re not quite sure what your friends/ hosts/ dinner companions might prefer.
Half bottles also mean there is no wastage from nearly finished bottles of wine and it’s a great size in this age of responsible drinking.
But they do have a few drawbacks. Yes, they tend to be more expensive per volume of wine and they also tend to age wine prematurely.
The amount of air between the cork and the wine can impair the aging process noticeably and obviously the ratio of air to wine is much higher in a smaller bottle.
Although a faster aging process may have a negative effect on some wines it may actually benefit others. Like wine itself bottle size comes down to personal preference and convenience.
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