ask dr. vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs. You can also follow me on Twitter: @AskDrVinny.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

What are the bottle names for different-size bottles? I like to have a large bottle when I have guests for dinner. It’s impressive, even though it’s hard to pour.

—David E., Tiverton, R.I.

Dear David,

Let’s start with the standard-size wine bottle, at 750ml. If you split that in half, to 375ml, you’ll end up with a “split,” “half-bottle” or “demi.” But you were asking about larger formats. A “magnum” is 1.5 liters, or the equivalent of two bottles, and if you double that, you’d have a “double magnum,” at 3 liters. (A 3-liter bottle is also known as a “jeroboam” in Champagne and Burgundy, but in Bordeaux, a jeroboam is 4.5 liters.)

Things get bigger faster after that: a 6-liter bottle is called either an “imperial” or a “methuselah,” a “salmanazar” holds 9 liters (as much wine as a full case of standard bottles), a “balthazar” holds 12 liters and a “nebuchadnezzar” holds 15 liters.

While it’s pretty easy to find magnums, the larger-format bottles are more rare, usually available only at auctions. As you might imagine, large bottles are considered collectibles because of their rarity, and because conventional wisdom holds that the wine in these bottles ages more slowly than their smaller counterparts.

—Dr. Vinny


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