A Guide to Wine Bottle Sizes, from Magnum to Melchizedek

With the rise of flat bottles and feather-light bottles, innovation abounds in wine packaging. Regardless of the bottle shape, however, one size reigns supreme: the classic 750-milliliter wine bottle.

According to Bijan Ghiai, beverage director for Urban Hill in Salt Lake City, Utah, winemakers have been packaging in glass bottles since the 17th century.  The shapes and sizes didn’t become more uniform until the early 1970s, when importing and exporting wine became more common. A universal size makes taxes, customs, shipping, and storage much smoother.

Most likely, 750 milliliters became the gold standard due to simple math, adds Johnny Walker, beverage director at Shota Omakase in New York City. Searching for common ground between metric and imperial systems of measurement, France and the U.S. agreed to store wine in barrels of 225 liters, the equivalent of 50 gallons. 

“From there, it’s just a game of finding the common denominator,” Walker says, and 300 bottles at 750 milliliters fits the bill. Still, that gold standard is far from your only option. 

“What do Jelly Roll, Luke Combs, and a three-liter of wine have in common? When any of those show up to a party, you know it’s gonna be fun,” says Luke Wilmoth, beverage director and sommelier at CUCINA enoteca in Newport Beach, California. “Bigger is just better.”

Beyond stealing the show due to their physical presence, Tiffany Tobey, sommelier at KNIFE Italian inside the Ritz-Carlton Dallas in Texas, believes that wine poured from larger format bottles taste different, too.

“I have been lucky enough to do multiple tastings with a large format bottle side-by-side with a regular 750-milliliter bottle, and I get more fruit expressions from the bigger bottle,” she says. “It just seems a bit more alive to me.”

Due to the difference in the wine-to-air ratio, wines in big bottles tend to age more slowly and develop additional complexity. 

“If it’s a white or sparkling wine, you will notice more nutty and caramelized or richer elements,” says Wilmoth. “With something like a big, bold Napa Valley cab, age will soften the tannins and develop more of the savory notes in the wine.”

Wine bottle sizes, from small to large

It doesn’t always make sense to invest in a supersized bottle. Sometimes, a glass or two will do. But if you’re hosting an epic dinner party,  wedding, or a large holiday gathering, Walker says you’ll likely score a better deal investing in a larger format bottle.

Split or Piccolo

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Size: 187 ½ milliliters, ¼ standard bottle, about one glass of wine

Piccolo means “small” in Italian, making it an apt name for this small size. It’s used almost exclusively for sparkling wines — and perhaps those baby bottles in wine advent calendars.

Half or Demi-bouteille

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Size: 375 milliliters, ½ standard bottle, about 2 ½ glasses of wine

French for “half bottle”, this size is ideal for a duo to each try a little more than a glass, or if you’re going solo and are used to sharing a bottle.

Half-liter or Jennie

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Size: 500 milliliters, ⅔ standard bottle, or about three glasses of wine

It’s fairly rare to find this bottle size for regular red, white, rosé, and sparkling wines. Instead, you’ll often find sweet wines like Tokaji and sauternes offered in this three-glass package.

Standard

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Size: 750 milliliters, the gold standard bottle, or about five glasses of wine

You know it, you’re likely storing it (just please tell us you’re not saving the good stuff in your regular fridge): the OG “seven fifty”. This equals 25.3 ounces, or just over five standard drinks.

Liter

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Size:  1 liter, 1 ⅓ standard bottle, or about seven glasses of wine

With enough glasses for each day of the week, a liter bottle is a popular storage size for value wines from Europe and the U.S.

Magnum

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Size: 1 ½ liters, two standard bottles, or about 10 glasses of wine

The name derives from the Latin term for great. “A regular-sized bottle was fine, but a bigger one — double the standard size — was great,” says Tobey. This format is frequently used for age-worthy red wines, including Nebbiolo and Cabernet Sauvignon. 

Double Magnum or Jeroboam

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Size: Three liters, four standard bottles, or about 20 glasses of wine

Now that you know that a magnum equals two bottles, meet the double magnum, or Jeroboam, which holds up to four. As for the name, Jeroboam refers to the first king of Israel after its revolt from Judah. Many wine bottle sizes from this point and larger give a nod to historic or biblical figures.

Rehoboam

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Size: 4 ½ liters, six standard bottles, or about 30 glasses of wine

Used exclusively for Champagne, this bountiful bottle is named after the son of King Solomon, who was the last to rule a united Israel and Judah.

Methuselah or Imperial

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Size: 6 liters, 8 standard bottles, about 40 glasses of wine

Bottles of this size are called Methuselah in Burgundy and Champagne, and Imperial in Bordeaux. Methuselah was the oldest person mentioned in the bible, and  with eight bottles worth of wine, it’ll take a bit of time to polish off this container. Tobey says that this bottle is traditionally used to celebrate a momentous occasion.

Salmanazar

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Size: Nine liters, 12 standard bottles, or about 60 glasses of wine

Holding the equivalent of a full case of wine in one, this bottle is named after five Assyrian kings, all of which had the same name, says Ghiai.

Balthazar 

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Size: 12 liters, 16 standard bottles, about 80 glasses of wine

Depending on who you ask, Balthazar refers to a Babylonian prince or one of the Three Wise Men from the Bible. One thing we know for sure: This holds enough glasses of wine to make for a very spirited hang.

Nebuchadnezzar

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Size: 15 liters, 20 standard bottles, or about 100 glasses of wine

Named after the legendary king who was the longest-reigning king of the Babylonian dynasty, this wine bottle is sure to last a long time, too. “This monster holds a staggering 15 liters, equivalent to 20 bottles,” says Ghiai.

Melchior

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Size: 18 liters, 24 standard bottles, about 120 glasses of wine

Score two cases in one container via this bottle size that’s a hat tip to the oldest of the biblical magi, a.k.a. The Three Wise Men.  (We wrote this with a standard bottle in mind, but it now feels fitting to remind you of how long wine lasts after opening.) 

Solomon

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Size: 20 liters, 26 standard bottles, or about 130 glasses of wine

The son of the King of David gets billing rights for this substantial bottle. The contents alone clock in at about 45 pounds, so you’ll probably need to call in reinforcements to transport and pour your Solomon.

Sovereign

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Size: 26 liters, 35 standard bottles, about 175 glasses of wine

A relative newbie to the wine world, this wine bottle size was introduced by Champagne Taittinger in 1988 in honor of  Royal Carribean’s Sovereign of the Seas, which was at the time  the world’s largest cruise ship.

Primat or Goliath

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Size: 27 liters, 36 standard bottles, or about 180 glasses of wine

For three cases in a single bottle, ask for a Goliath, the larger competitor to scrappy David.

Melchizedek or Midas

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Size: 30 liters, 40 standard bottles, about 200 glasses of wine

Last but very much not least, this is currently the largest wine bottle option in the world. You can say “checkmate” if you find one, as Melchizedek or Midas  is named after two powerful kings.



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