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.


Dear Dr. Vinny,

Are there any interesting stories as to how and why the large-format bottles are given Biblical names?

—Rya B., Missoula, Mont.

Dear Rya,

Well, I've found a few interesting theories, but no definitive answer. For those of you who aren't familiar with large-format bottles—bigger than double-magnums—let me tell you that these bottles all have tough-to-spell, even-harder-to-pronounce names, such as jeroboam, rehoboam, methuselah, salmanazar, balthazar and nebuchadnezzar.

These bottle names mostly come from ancient kings of Israel, which may be a tribute to these historical figures (or a statement about the worth of the bottle of wine). But if you dig a little deeper, you'll find that these names are quite cleverly appropriate.

For example, the methusaleh, or 6-liter bottle (the equivalent of eight standard bottles), is named after a Jewish patriarch who was said to have lived nearly a thousand years, which might be a playful statement on the aging potential for a wine in a bottle that big.

Balthazar is the name for a 12-liter bottle, which is equivalent to 16 normal-size bottles. Sixteen! Balthazar was a Babylonian king who drank some wine out of holy chalices from a temple, and incurred God's wrath. While Balthazar was partying, the Persians invaded and the Babylonians lost power. This might be a reminder of what can unravel as you're getting to the bottom of a bottle that big.

—Dr. Vinny


Do you have a question for Dr. Vinny? Ask it here...

Wine Basics

We break down the basics—how to taste, serve, store and more. Plus:
» Maps of major wine regions
» Grape variety characteristics

How-to Videos

Learn to taste wine like a pro, pull a cork with flair, get great wine service in a restaurant and more

Wine Spectator School: All courses are FREE for WineSpectator.com Members

Learn from the experts and get the most out of each sip. Take one of our online courses or take them all—from the ABCs of Tasting to in-depth seminars on Food Pairing, California Cabernet, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Sensory Evaluation and more.

Browse our course catalog
Check out the professional wine sales and service courses
Learn Wine Forum: Got questions? Get answers

MEMBER LOGIN

= members only

Keep me logged in      Forgot Password?

Free Email Newsletters

Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions

» View samples
» Or sign up now!
» Manage my newsletter preferences

Classifieds

The marketplace for all your wine needs, including:

Wine Storage | Wine Clubs
Dining & Travel | Wine Auctions
Wine Shops | Wine Accessories