All you need to know about the different sizes when it comes to wine (or Champagne in this specific case).
Are big bottles better?
Yes, they are. Large format may contain more wine than the common 0.75 litre bottle, but the bottle neck is just as narrow. While there’s much more wine in a big bottle, the amount of oxygen that gets trapped between the wine and the cork is about the same. This means that there is significantly less oxygen in contact with the wine. Less oxygen means the wine oxidizes about one and a half to two times slower than in a regular bottle, thereby retaining more flavour and nuance. This actual pace of aging is the best in order to preserve the balance in wine between freshness, acidity and fruit. Specifically the Champagne AOC is the only one to use such a wide variety of bottle formats, some being purely functional while others are designed to capture the spirit of specific festive occasions.
Why should you buy wine in large format? And what type?
- Think long term! Especially with wines that can and should mature in the cellar for years – Vintage Champagne, Barolo, Super Tuscan, Bordeaux, Burgundy etc. – it is worth investing in the large bottle. A wine will definitely taste fresher out of magnum as compared to the same wine in a 750 millilitre format.
- Specifically with Champagne, big bottles, (especially magnum) also help the wine gain flavour—not just keep it. During the Champagne fermentation process, winemakers add yeast that gives the wine effervescence and personality. In a magnum, the yeast has room to spread out and do more work. The Champagne gains more texture, complexity and nuance—even after it’s bottled.
- The larger volume of liquid in the bottle takes longer to warm or cool and is therefore more resistant to temperature changes that could potentially damage a smaller bottle of wine.
- The thicker glass of a large format bottle also offers better UV protection for the wine
- Large bottles make wonderful wedding presents and long-lasting anniversary gifts!
- And then there’s of course another obvious you should buy large format bottles: Bigger bottles equal more wine to drink = more fun to have.
Contact me for my actual list of Dom Pérignon, Armand de Brignac, Krug, Veuve Clicquot and Ruinart.
“A magnum is the perfect amount of wine for two people if only one of them is drinking.”
Why magnum Champagne typically cost more than just double the price of standard-sized bottles?
While some wine drinkers might question the rationale of this fact rather than simply buying two 75cl’s of the same champagne, there are few reasons for the increased price: higher cost of the materials such as glass (thicker glass is required to withstand the pressure of the wine), cork and packaging (which has to be redesigned to fit different formats). Filling, handling and shipping costs for off-size bottles are typically higher too.
Offical sizes by Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC)
The Magnum (1.5 litres) – that’s where you have the best ratio between air and wine and where the aging potential will be at its best!
The Jeroboam (3 litres) owes its name to two Kings of Israel, the first of whom is generally known as the founder of the Kingdom of Israel.
The Mathusalem (6 litres) is named after the celebrated biblical patriarch who is said to have lived to the age of 969 (Genesis 5.27). Methuselah’s descendant was Noah, the only man to have survived the Great Flood. Since he is credited with having planted the very first vines, he should also have a bottle named after him.
The Salmanazar (9 litres) is named after five Assyrian kings, the most famous being Salmanazar III (858-824 BC) – remembered as a great builder even if he didn’t succeed in defeating the Aramean kings.
The Balthazar (12 litres) contrary to popular belief, is not named after one of the three kings – or at least not according to Scripture, which neither gives the names of the wise men nor says how many there were. Their names in fact grew out of a tradition that started many centuries after the Bible was written. The only reference to Balthazar in the bible is to Balthazar king of Babylon (539 BC) who danced the nights away while under siege by Persian troops – handing victory on a plate to the Persian king, Cyrus.
The Nebuchadnezzar (15 litres) also makes reference to a king of Babylon, in this case Nebuchadnezzahr II (also known as Nebuchadnezzahr the Great), king of the Chaldeans from 605-562 BC. Under his rule, Babylon became the cultural centre of the western world. He also seized Jerusalem and forced its people into exile, a story that would later inspire Verdi’s ‘Nabucco’ (first performed in 1842).
Very rare and heavy wine bottle sizes
The Salomon holds 20 litres and weighs 43 kilos! It is somewhat handier than the Melchizedek and was named after the wise Israeli king.
The Primat has a 27-litre capacity (equivalent to 36 bottles), weight 65 kilos (143 pounds), height 100cm (40 inches), diameter 26cm (10 inches).
The Melchizedek (or Midas) is the name of the bottle size that can hold 30 litres. That is the equivalent of 40 standard bottles or 300 glasses. The name comes from a king from the Old Testament. King Melchizedek was the first priest to use wine in addition to bread for his sacrificial ritual.
The Melchizedek bottle weighs around 50 kilograms. For the special occasion of opening that one, not only numerous invited guest are a prerequisite – a wine cradle also helps when pouring in. The bottle then lies at an angle and can be slowly tilted with a crank. Slipping, falling over and spilling of the expensive drops are almost impossible.
What is a wine cradle?
It is better to have this tool around you when you buy bottles of six litres or more. Pouring by hand becomes a feat of strength. The giant bottles are therefore embedded in a special device that is tilted by means of a crank until the wine flows out.
Who owns the largest bottle of wine?
The largest bottle in the world is locate in Switzerland! It is 4.20 meters high and contains 3,094 liters of Spanish wine. This bottle is not really intended for drinking: it’s just decoration at car dealership in Lyssach in the canton of Bern and is used as for advertising purposes.
Please get in touch for you questions and a tailormade personal offer of the best Champagne in big bottles, click here.
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