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Large Format Bottles
Apr 13, 2017

By Steve Jacobson –

The Wine Ponderer has already written about Wine Bottle Shapes And Sizes.  But I wanted to address why the sizes of bottles matter.

Have you ever walked into a restaurant or a wine store and seen the very large bottles of wine?  What is up with that?  How practical is opening a large bottle and drinking all of the wine?  What if you don’t finish the bottle?  Imagine putting the cork back in?  I wouldn’t want that job.  So I do my best to make sure if I am ever pouring from a large format bottle (yes, it does happen on a rare occasion) that there are enough people in the room to polish it off.

So why are there large bottles?  Does the wine really taste “better” when poured from a magnum?  Well, let’s dig in a little deeper to see what the philosophy of wine is from large format bottles.

– First, large bottles are great to look at.  They definitely get your attention.  And in a large room with a lot of people, you can’t miss these bottles.

– Second, drinking from a large format bottle allows the wine to continue to change over time.  Since it definitely takes a lot longer to finish a big bottle than a regular size one, the wine will continually evolve.  So an argument can be made that the wine tastes “better” coming from a big format bottle.

– Third, aside from the overly scientific fact previously mentioned, it is the undeniable joy and conviviality of a group of friends sharing the same experience from the same bottle of wine.

– Fourth, it just looks cool pouring wine from a large bottle.  Period.

So just how big is big?  A split is a quarter bottle at 187.5ML.  Demi is a half bottle at 375ML.  A regular wine bottle holds 750ML.  A Magnum is twice that – 1.5L.  The Double Magnum, AKA Jeroboam, is 3L (4 bottles). Rehoboam is 4.5L (6 bottles).  The Imperial,AKA Methuselah is 6L (8 bottles).  The 9L bottle (12 bottles) is called Salmanazar.  The 12L (16 bottles) is Balthazar and the 15L is called Nebuchadnezzar.  And just when you think that 15L is a lot – after all, it is equal to 20 bottles of wine…  The biggest bottle of champagne was presented in September 2012 from Champagne Drappier at 30 LITERS (40 bottles)!  That’s a lot of wine flutes!!   And check out the contraption that was used to pour this bad boy.  They call this the Melchizedek.

Now, I am guessing some of you reading this are ready to order one of these for your next big party.  So I have done the research already and will share with you where you can get one. Go to Finest Wine and type in Drappier Champagne into the search.  And you can order one for a great price of $6,568.15.  I am not sure if there is free shipping with that.

And since we are talking about bottles, why is there a “lift”, or more commonly known as a “dimple”, at the base of a wine bottle?  The more technically correct term is “punt”.  There are no certified explanations for this, but here are a few points of info that seem to make some sense.

• It is possible that when bottles were blown glass using a blowpipe, there was another tool called the pontil that would leave a “punt mark”.  By indenting the point where the pontil was connected, this scar would not scratch the surface it was sitting on or make the bottle uneven.

• A bottle with a flat bottom has to be perfect – otherwise any imperfection would make it unstable.  This lift would allow for some imperfections without sacrificing the stability of the bottle.

• Wine sediment settles at the bottom of the bottle and this dimple would help prevent much of it from being poured into the glass.

• This lift in the bottom of the bottle helps gain stability in holding the bottle by placing your thumb in the area, making it easier to pour.

• Regular wine bottles hold 750ML.  This dimple makes it look like there is more in the bottle than there really is.

I must tell you after all this; I never actually measured the size of a punt in a Balthazar or a Nebuchadnezzar.  So I would be curious to see just how much space that is.