What size bottles does wine come in? Do the different sizes make a difference in how the wine tastes? That’s a complicated answer. First, there are a number of misconceptions about what different sized wine bottles are actually called and second, once you get into the bigger bottles, there are different names for bottles that hold the same amount depending on where they are from. Sound confusing? Just wait. This plot has more twists than an Agatha Christie novel. Part one of this post pertains to the more standard size bottles – those that you are likely to see in your every day travels. Part two gets into large format wine bottles.
187 ml or roughly 1/4 of a standard wine bottle
This is the smallest standard form factor. It’s about the size of your fingernail and holds just enough so that if you inhale at the wrong time, you may just breathe in your wine instead of actually drinking it. They are kind of the equivalent of those “fun size” candy bars that you used to get as a kid on Halloween. You know the ones I’m talking about. They’re barely a bite so you had to eat five or six of them to equal one of the real size candy bars. Never mind the fact that you need a magnifying glass to actually see them. Technically, these bottles hold 187 ml and they are called a Split or occasionally a Piccolo but some people incorrectly refer to them as a single. I refer to them as “nuisance” and other than being convenient for travel, they are an utter waste of time. They are generally mass produced so it’s extremely rare to get a good quality wine in one. Also, the small form factor wines usually have a higher percentage of oxygen to wine in the bottle so are prone to oxidizing far more quickly.
375 ml Half or Demi
The next smallest size, called a Demi or occasionally a Half, contains half of a standard bottle of wine or 375ml. These are often, incorrectly called a Split which is actually one of the names for the bottle that is one half this size and was mentioned above. However, just as with the nuisance bottle mentioned above, wines in this size bottle can oxidize more quickly. The bottles are often used to hold sparkling, dessert or fortified wines where smaller servings are in order due to the strength or sweetness of the wine. The smaller wine bottle allows the drinker to finish the bottle without having to recork the wine and run the risk of it spoiling.
750 ml or Standard Bottle
What’s next? The old standby and the form that the vast majority of wines are sold in, the 750ml or Standard bottle. This is the one that you see lined up on store shelves, wine racks and restaurant displays and while it looks considerably bigger, it really only holds slightly more than the equivalent of two 12 ounce cans of soda. See…now you don’t feel so bad drinking that bottle by yourself. 26 ounces of water, soda or beer is easy to polish off. Why should wine be any different? Assuming the winemaker conforms to international guidelines, the Standard wine bottle always holds 750ml irrespective of its shape. By the way…the biggest misconception about this size wine bottles has to do with the “punt”, that thing in the bottom of the bottle that sticks up into the wine that makes it look like the winemaker is trying to cheat you out of your wine. No matter how big the punt is, the bottle will still hold 750ml (check the label if you don’t trust me). Wine bottles always show how much volume is in them.
The last of the more common wine bottle sizes is the magnum. The magnum holds twice the amount of wine than a Standard bottle and while not as frequently seen as the 750ml bottle, it can be found in most wine stores. Why would a wine maker produce a wine bottle that is bigger than the standard? There’s actually two reasons, one for quality wine and one for the really cheap ass stuff. Wine bottled in a magnum that is well made and is designed to age has less air in it per volume of wine than a Standard bottle. Less air means slower oxidization and a better aging process, particularly for wines that are meant to be aged for a long period of time. Of course magnums tend to reek havoc with a well planned wine storage system so be careful before investing in a bunch of them or you may find that you have no place to put them. The other reason to bottle in a magnum is for what are euphemistically called “economy” wines….aka…Crap…Rotgut….Swill or a Future Hangover. Bottling wine in a single bottle is more economical. It uses less glass, only requires a single cork and label, all of which cost money. It’s also a more efficient use of space, and freight is a major component in the price of wine.
So there you have it – part of our wine bottle size post. Check out part two to see the more unusual wine bottle sizes.