Wine Types: Wine Bottle Sizes & Shapes

A client called me the other day inquiring about a wine cooler that could store Magnum bottles of wine.  I knew a Magnum bottle of wine held about twice what a standard 750 ml bottle held, but I did not know what the specific bottle dimensions were.  I needed a quick lesson on wine bottle sizes in order to respond to customer questions.  What I found out is wine bottle shapes and sizes can vary by region, state, country and even wine type.  Also, I came to realize that they are so many different bottle sizes that a single article about all of them would be impossible.  Subsequently, I decided to concentrate my research on a few of the basic standard size wine bottles.

wine bottle

WINE BOTTLE SIZES

Most wine will come in a standard 750 ml. bottle and in fact this size bottle is the basis for naming many of the other bottle sizes.  Wine cooler and chillers are typically sized to handle the standard 750 ml. bottle.  Some of the standard sized wine bottles that you are most likely to come across are: Split (1/4 bottle, 0.1875 liters ), Half (1/2 bottle, 0.375 liters), Bottle (full bottle; 0.750 liters), Magnum (2 bottles, 1.5  liters), Double Magnum (4 bottles; 3.0  liters), Jeroboam  ( 6 bottles, 4 ½ liters), Methuselah (8 bottles, 6.0 liters), Salmanazar (12 bottles; 12.0 liters), Balthazar (16 bottles; 12.0 liter), and Nebuchadnezzar (20 bottles; 15.0 l.).  It is interesting to note that many of the larger sized wine bottles were named after Biblical Kings and other figures.  The United States waited until 1979 to adopt the metric measurements for bottles of wine and use the 750 ml. standard bottle.

The Split size bottle stands about 7 ½ inches tall with a bottom diameter of about 2 ½ inches.  These wine bottles are often used for desert and sparkling wines and are small enough to drink in one serving as they lose their fizz rapidly after opening.   The most widely sold standard 750 ml. bottle stands about 11 ½ to 12 inches high and is typically 3 ½ inches in diameter at the base.  Magnum bottles stand about 14 inches tall and are around 4 inches in diameter.  Jeroboam bottles stand 19 ½ inches tall with a base diameter of about 5 inches.  The higher capacity bottles such as the Methuselah (22 inches tall) range upward in size to the Nebuchadnezzar that is 31 inches tall.  Imagine picking up a bottle that is over 31 inches tall and pouring its wine into your delicate glass stemware.

WINE BOTTLE SHAPES

Wine bottle shapes are as varied as their sizes.  Most wine producers opt for bottle shapes that are most appropriate for their wine.  For example, Chianti and some other Italian wines come in a round-bottomed bottle encased in a straw basket.  Champagne and other sparkling wines come in bottles that are thicker walled because of the excess internal pressures.  Wine producers often choose a wine bottle shape strictly for marketing purposes.  For that reason, a German Company uses a bottle shaped as a “house cat’” for a Riesling wine it produces.

WINE BOTTLE COLORS

There are several traditional colors that you will find being used in wine bottles.  Dark green bottles are typically used for red wines (Bordeaux, Burgundy and Rhone).  Mosel, Rhine and Alsace wines often use a lighter green or amber colored bottle.  Clear bottles seem to be the most popular for white wines in many countries.  Champagne is typically bottled in a dark to medium green color.  Some wine producers also use colors relating to their individual marketing strategies.

FUTURE WINE PACKAGING

The future of wine packaging is wide open.  Many producers are opting for cost reducing screw type caps instead of corks.  Because the weight of the bottle approximates about 40 percent of the total bottled wine weight, plastic bottles and tetra packs are being explored as a lighter alternative that is cheaper to handle and ship.  Packaging wine in lighter containers and exporting wine in bulk quantities then bottling it in smaller bottles closer to the point of consumption are all strategies being explored to improve wine sales and reduce shipping costs.  Perhaps, the cost of a good imported French wine will become more affordable in the future.

Read More: Wine Types- Dessert Wines

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