Champagne Bottle Size Overview

Published: 16th July 2009
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One of the many oddities of the Champagne region is the extraordinary array of bottle sizes available.

Factoid-hungry customers in our wine tasting events generally have three main questions when it comes to Champagne bottle size; what are the main large format names and their respective volumes (and how do you remember them), is the quality of the Champagne the same in larger bottle sizes, and, finally, why the odd names (methuselah, nebuchadnezzar etc)?

When I worked in wine retail I came up with a curious mnemonic to remember the main bottle sizes. I've replicated it below (it involved the first name and surname of one of my staff, which I've changed!):

Michael

Johnson

Rides

Merrily

Soberly

(and) Bravely

Northwards

This translated to the following:

Magnum (1.5 litres) - 2 standard bottles

Jeroboam (3 litres) - 4 standard bottles

Rehoboam (4.5 litres) - 6 standard bottles

Methuselah (6 litres) - 8 standard bottles

Salmanazar (9 litres) - 12 standard bottles

Balthazar (12 litres) - 16 standard bottles

Nebuchadnezzar (15 litres) - 20 standard bottles

Now there are bottle formats that exist outside the above mnemonic, which are the smaller bottle sizes (generally a cinch to remember; standard of course, 1/2 bottle size, and 1/4 bottle size, which we used to call "imps" but are more widely known as Piccolo), and the larger bottle sizes, of which there are three:

Solomon (18 litres) - 24 standard bottles

Primat (27 litres) - 36 standard bottles

Melchizedek (30 litres) - 40 standard bottles

All the large format Champagnes (with the exception of the Magnum and Primat bottle sizes) are in fact named after biblical kings and other bibical characters. Nobody knows quite why but it's probable that merchants of yester-year wanted evocative, illustrious sounding names for these oddities, and the bible did the trick!

So how's the quality of the fizz in these super-size Champagne bottles? Does it stack up? As bottle sizes larger than magnums tend to be filled from smaller bottles (with the notable exception of Champagne houses like Pol Roger), it's been said that super-size Champagne bottles court publicity rather than encourage quality. Whilst we've noticed no appreciable difference in the large format bottles we have tasted, do take this into account when you are buying.

Pip Martin is the founder of The Wine Adventure. Pip runs International, UK-wide and London wine tasting games & other events for corporate entertainment.

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