The different sizes of wine bottle

by Lou Heriche

Why does a standard bottle of wine contain 75cl?

Now the standard, this bottle format was created in the 18th century (then regulated by law in 1866) to standardize trade with the English. At the time, the English reigned supreme over the wine trade. Preferring the imperial system to the metric, our neighbors on the other side of the Channel used the imperial gallon (4.546L) as a reference, and were accustomed to using 50-gallon barrels (approximately 225L). Thus, the 75cl format had two advantages: 6 bottles were equivalent to 1 gallon (which explains why the 6-bottle carton is still in use today) and 300 bottles were equivalent to the 50-gallon barrel (225L), all to simplify merchants’ calculations.

Each region uses its own name to designate the 75-cl bottle, so we speak of the “bordelaise” (Bordeaux), “bourguignonne” (Burgundy) or “champenoise” (Champagne) shape.

The different shapes of wine bottles by region :

The different shapes of wine bottles by region

Why do some bottles of wine contain 73cl?

Prior to 1975, glassmakers measured the 75cl capacity at overflow. The public services of the time pointed out that the quantity of wine was in fact only 73cl. The glassmakers were then asked to produce 77cl bottles to reach a 75cl capacity. To clear their stock of bottles, châteaux were obliged to indicate 73cl on the label.

What other bottle sizes are there?

The different sizes of wine bottle
©️Pittet Vins

In the 18th century, champagne enjoyed a tremendous boom among the various courts of Europe and the bourgeoisie. These wealthy consumers financed the production of ever-larger bottles. Traces of the first magnums can be found in King Louis XV’s 1735 ordinance, which laid down the rules for Champagne trading, defining the capacity of a bottle (93cl at the time) and also providing for the existence of “quarts, demis and double bottles and above”. Bordeaux and Burgundy followed suit a few decades later, as Victorian England in the 19th century fell in love with these large containers.

In addition to their aesthetic appeal, large formats offer a number of advantages:

* They improve ageing, as the amount of air in the bottle decreases proportionally as the volume of wine increases, thus reducing the oxidation process and improving wine preservation.

* They reduce temperature variations, thanks to their greater volume, and the thermal inertia within the bottle ensures a more stable wine temperature.


Derived from the Latin “magnus” meaning “big“, it is the only format whose name has no biblical origin. The magnum holds 1.5L or 2 bottles.


With a capacity of 3L or 4 bottles, it’s called double-magnum in the Bordeaux region (where the jeroboam contains 5L). Jeroboam was a king who ruled the kingdom of Israel in the 10th century B.C. He is best known for leading a rebellion against King Solomon and for becoming the first king of the kingdom of Israel after the split of the unified kingdom of Israel and Judea.


With a capacity of 4.5L or 6 bottles. Rehoboam was a king of Israel, who ruled the kingdom of Judah in the 10th century BC, after the death of his father Solomon.


With a capacity of 6L or 8 bottles, it’s known as impériale in Bordeaux. Methuselah symbolizes longevity. It takes its name from the oldest character in the Old Testament. Methuselah is said to have lived 969 years. He was the grandfather of Noah, who is credited with planting the first vines and thus deserved to have a bottle size named after him.


With a capacity of 9L or 12 bottles, Salmanzar was the name of 5 different kings who ruled Assyria.


With a capacity of 12L or 16 bottles, the name “Balthazar” is associated with one of the wise men who visited Jesus at his birth, according to Christian tradition.


With a capacity of 15L or 20 bottles, Nebuchadnezzar was a Babylonian king who reigned from 605 to 562 B.C., known for conquering Jerusalem in 597 B.C., destroying Solomon’s Temple and exiling the Jews to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar was also a great builder, to whom we owe the famous Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

The weight of such a bottle is over 38Kg, so from this size upwards a serving mechanism is generally used.

Salomon (Melchior in Bordeaux)

With a capacity of 15L or 20 bottles, Salomon was a king famous for having built the temple of Jerusalem. Melchior, like Balthazar, was one of the three Magi.

Champagne bottles come in even larger sizes, including Souverain (26.25L), Primat (27L), Melchiezedec (30L), Adélaïde (93L) and Sublime (150L).

What’s the biggest bottle of wine in the world?

Listed in the Guinness World Record since 2014, the gigantic bottle, created by the Swiss André Vogel, has extraordinary dimensions: 4.17m high, 1.21m in diameter and contains 3094L of wine, the equivalent of 4725 bottles of wine.

The world's largest bottle held by André Vogel - Guinness World Record 2014

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