Bottles Sizes & Names
Why do Champagne’s large-format bottles have biblical names?
No one is exactly sure of the reasons why larger format bottles were given biblical names. But, according to the Champagne expert Francois Bonal, winemakers in Bordeaux had been using the name Jeroboam for the four-bottle size since 1725. (It’s presumed they selected Jeroboam, the biblical founder of Israel, who ruled from 931-910 BC because he is referred to as “a man of great worth,” as were the larger size bottles). Bonal also explains that a Champagne medieval poet, Eugene Destuche, mentioned several of these names in his poetry. The region of Champagne adopted the Jeroboam size and followed suit with larger format bottles developed in the 1940s, continuing the practice of selecting biblical kings and patriarchs.
Bottle Sizes and Capacities
Champagne is sold in eleven different bottle sizes:
Huitieme: An eighth of bottle and barely a glass full.
Quart: Mostly served by airlines.
Split: (18.7ml or 6 oz or about 1 glass).
Demi Bouteille or Half Bottle: A half bottle (375ml or 13 oz or about 3 glasses).
Standard Bottle: (750ml or 25 oz = 1 bottle or about 5 glasses.
Magnum: double bottle size ( 1.5 liter or 50 oz =2 bottles or about 10 glasses).
Jeroboamm: (3 liters or 101 oz = 4 bottles or about 20 glasses). Founder & first King of Israel: 931-910 BC. Sprayed at end of F1 Grands Prix.
Rehoboam (4.5 liters or 150 oz = 6 bottles or about 30 glasses). Son of Solomon,King of Judah, 922-908 BC. Banned by US and EU regulations
Methuselah (6 liters or 201 oz = 8 bottles or about 40 glasses). Biblical patriarch who lived to the age of 969.
Salmanazar (9 liters or 300 oz =12 bottles or about 60 glasses). King of Assyria: 859-824 BC.
Balthazar (12 liters or 400 oz = 16 bottles or about 80 glasses). Regent of Babylon, son of Nabonide, 539BC.
Nebuchadnezzar (15 liters or 500 oz = 20 bottles orabout 100 glasses). King of Babylon, 605-562 BC.
A useful mnemonic to remember the names for these big bottle sizes, starting with the magnum, is:
My Judy Really Makes Splendid Belching Noises
There are occasionally exceptions to these standard bottle types. Sometimes bottles of different sizes and shapes are used for special occasions or for special cuvées. For example, Pol Roger Champagne made a 20 fluid ounce (60 centiliter) bottle specially for Sir Winston Churchill, which his manservant brought him each morning at 11 am. Extremely rare is the 18 liter or 608 oz, 24 bottle Solomon (Salomon in French), and even rarer is the gigantic 27 liter or 913 oz, 36 bottle Primat (pronounced “preemah”), which weighs in at 65 kilos (143 lbs!).
Big bottles have a novelty value, but because of the difficulty in moving such a large mass for riddling and disgorgement (a full Nebuchadnezzar weighs 38 kilos (83lbs!). In most houses the secondary fermentation is carried out in magnums. The wine is then decanted into the larger bottles. This inevitably results in a loss of pressure. Some would say that there is a chance of more oxidation as a result of this, and that Champagne from a giant bottle is inferior to that from the magnum it was fermented in.
A vos sabres!