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More Wine Tidbits

I know the big bottles have special names but I just can't remember what they are...


No one is exactly sure of the reasons why larger format bottles were given biblical names.

The earliest recorded use of biblical names for big bottles comes from 1725 where winemakers in Bordeaux were using the name Jeroboam for the four-bottle size. It's presumed they selected Jeroboam, the biblical founder of Israel, who ruled from 931-910 BC because he is referred to as "a man of great worth," as were the larger size bottles.

A Champenois poet of the middle ages, Eugene Destuche mentioned several of these names in his poetry. The Champenois adopted the Jeroboam and followed suit with larger format bottles developed in the 1940s, continuing the practice of selecting biblical kings and patriarchs.

Name

Volume

# of bottles

Where it came from

Pony

187 ml

0.25

New World

Picolo/Split

187 ml

0.25

Champagne, Burgundy, Rhone

Pony

375 ml

0.5

Champagne, Bordeaux, Burgundy

Fillette

375 ml

0.5

Means "little girl"

Pot

500 ml

0.667

Bordeaux

Imperial Pint

588 ml

0.784

Champagne, Burgundy, Rhone<

Bottle

750 ml

1

Sometimes referred to as a "fifth"

Magnum

1.5 litres

2

Champagne, Bordeaux, Burgundy

Marie-Jeanne

2.25 litres

3

3 Bordeaux Reference to Marie-Jeanne Ozanne (1734-1786) from Bordeaux

Double Magnum

3.0 litres

4

Bordeaux

Jeroboam
(sparkling wine)

3.0 litres

4

Champagne, Bordeaux, Burgundy
Actually Jeroboam II, King of Israel during the year of Rome's founding (753 BC)

Jeroboam
(still wine)

4.5 litres

6

 

Jeroboam
(USA Only)

5.0 litres

6.67

 

Rehoboam

4.5 litres

6

Champagne, Burgundy
A son of Solomon, Rehoboam became king of Judah in 933 BC

Imperial

6.0 litres

8

Bordeaux, New World

Methuselah

6.0 litres

8

Champagne, Burgundy
Methuselah was a patriarch from the Old Testament described as having lived for 969 years

Salmanazar or Shalmaneser

9.0 litres

12

Champagne, Burgundy
Shalmaneser I, alternatively spelt Salmanazar was an Assyrian monarch who reigned around 1250 BC

Balthazar

12.0 litres

16

Champagne, Bordeaux, Burgundy
Balthazar (King of Treasures) is the traditional name of one of the Three Wise Men, the other two being Melchior (King of Light) and Gaspar (The White One)

Nebuchadnezzar

15.0 litres

20

Champagne, Bordeaux, Burgundy
Nebuchadnezzar, originally nabu-kudurri-usur meaning 'Nabu protect the boundary' became King of the Chaldean Empire in 604 BC. He was actually the second Nebuchadnezzar as a less famous one preceded him by 500 years.

Melchior

18.0 litres

24

Champagne, Bordeaux, Burgundy
Melchior (King of Light) is the traditional name of one of the Three Wise Men, the other two being Balthazar (King of Treasures) and Gaspar (The White One)

Sovereign

25.5 litres

34

Champagne, Bordeaux, Burgundy

The naming conventions varied somewhat among wine regions, with the two standards being Champagne and Bordeaux in France. The new world wines pretty much follow the Bordeaux naming but throw in their own quirks just to keep us on our toes.
In case you run into a big bottle, here's a quick field guide to the sizes:

A useful mnemonic for the big bottle sizes is: My Judy Really Makes Splendid Belching Noises

Piccolo
From Italian, meaning small. Refers to a tiny quarter bottle holding just 187.5ml of Champagne.

Pony
Pony seems to be unique to new world wines. It's a quarter bottle size of approximately 187.5 ml of wine but the name's also sometimes used for a half bottle of 375ml capacity.

Split
The history of the wine bottle section covers the evolution of the 750ml bottle size and from this comes the 'tenth' designation. A full size bottle is also referred to as a fifth and this refers roughly to a fifth of a gallon. A 'split' comes from the same logic as a tenth, half a regular bottle where a regular bottle is a fifth as it holds a fifth of a gallon. Hence the half bottle being a tenth.

Half Bottle
Half bottle is a fairly recent name. The name comes from, well pretty obviously, half a bottle or 375ml.

* Reproduced with permission from Peter Svans at The Gurdies Winery

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