Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.
Dear Dr. Vinny,
How did the large-format wine bottle size “jeroboam” get its name?
—Clare, Olmsted Falls, Ohio
I recently went over some of the names for large-format wine bottles, but I didn’t mention that many of these bottles are named after ancient kings of Israel. The “jeroboam” you mention refers to either a 3-liter bottle of Champagne or Burgundy or a 4.5-liter bottle of Bordeaux. Biblically, Jeroboam was the first king of the northern Kingdom of Israel who ruled somewhere around 920 to 901 B.C.
I’ve spent a lot of time researching the how and who and when these biblical names were assigned, but there are only theories (a glassmaker who was also a biblical scholar seems a popular one) and no confirmed facts. The term “jeroboam” of wine dates back to around the 1700s, and there aren’t many records of these things.
As I’ve written previously, one of the fun things about some of these biblical names is that they are actually rather clever. Jeroboam was known as a man of great worth, ruling at a time when the region was flourishing with olive oil and wine production. It’s a good name for a large bottle of wine.