Wine Bottles and Wine Glasses - Everything You Need to Know

If you think a Methuselah is just a very old guy, we've got some information for you.

The holidays are upon us and it's a time for drinking wine and Champagne. Before you head out to the liquor store, there are a couple of things you might want to know about wine bottle sizes and wine glasses.

Wine bottle sizes

Wine bottle sizes are named for Biblical kings. The reason for this has been lost to the sands of time.

Wine bottle sizes
Wine bottle sizes Source: Marcia Wendorf

Wine and Champagne bottle sizes are:

  • Demi or Half - holds one-half of the standard 750 ml size or 375 ml, 3 glasses
  • Standard - common bottle size for most distributed wine, 750 ml, 6 glasses
  • Magnum - Latin for "great", it is equivalent to two standard 750 ml bottles or 1.5 L, 12 glasses
  • Jeroboam - named for the first king of the Northern Kingdom of Israel during the late 10th century BC, equivalent to four standard 750 ml bottles, or 3 L, 24 glasses
  • Rehoboam - named after the son of King Solomon and grandson of King David who ruled the Kingdom of Judah during the 10th century BC, equivalent to six standard 750 ml bottles or 4.5 L, 36 glasses
  • Methuselah - named after the character in the Old Testament who supposedly lived for 969 years, equivalent to eight standard 750 ml bottles or 6 L, 64 glasses
  • Salmanazar - named for five Assyrian kings who ruled between the 13th and 8th centuries BC, it is equivalent to twelve standard 750 ml bottles or 9.0 L, 72 glasses
  • Balthazar - named after a king of Arabia who according to the Bible gave gifts to the baby Jesus, equivalent to sixteen standard 750 ml bottles or 12.0 L, 96 glasses
  • Nebuchadnezzar - the greatest of all the Babylonian kings who ruled from the late 7th to the middle of the 6th century BC, it is equivalent to twenty standard 750 ml bottles or 15.0 L, 120 glasses
  • Melchoir - named for another of the Three Wise men, it is equivalent to twenty-four standard 750 ml bottles or 18.0 L, 144 glasses
  • Solomon - a king of Israel and son of King David, it is equivalent to twenty-eight standard 750 ml bottles or 21.0 L, 168 glasses
  • Melchizedek - while some claim this size bottle is only a myth, if it exists, it is equivalent to forty standard 750 ml bottles or 30 L, 240 glasses.

If your tastes are a little more proletariat, box wine typically comes in 3 L sizes.

Wine bottle colors

Wine is bottled in colored or tinted glass because sunlight can break down what are known as desirable antioxidants, such as Vitamin C and tannins. This affects how long a wine can be stored.

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Dark glass prevents premature oxidation. While most red wines come in dark-colored bottles, many white wines do as well. Recently, wine producers in Canada, Greece and New Zealand have begun bottling their wines in clear bottles. Wine bottle colors are:

  • Bordeaux - dark green for reds, light green for dry whites, colorless for sweet whites
  • Burgundy and Rhone - dark green
  • Mosel and Alsace - dark to medium green or amber
  • Rhine - amber or green
  • Champagne - dark to medium green.

Wine glass sizes and shapes

Now that you've got your wine and Champagne bottles down, it's time to consider what glasses to put the wine and Champagne in.

While you can certainly drink wine and Champagne from a mug or paper cup, if you want to really taste the wine, you need to serve the wine in the right glass.

Parts of a wine glass
Parts of a wine glass Source: Marcia Wendorf

The shape and size of the bowl determines how the aroma of the wine is released. Champagne flutes are narrow to keep the bubbles in as long as possible. The next narrowest bowls are white wine glasses, which limit the wine's interaction with the air, and thus prevent oxidation.

For bold red wines, you want a wide bowl that will expose the wine to the air. You want the wine to oxidize and breathe in order to release its aromas and flavors.

Wine glasses have a stem so that you will hold the glass by the stem and not the bowl. That way, your hand won't change the temperature of the wine. If you hold the glass as close to the base as possible, you won't smell your hand instead of the wine's aroma as you sip.

The shape of a wine glass's rim directs the wine to a particular portion of your palate. The thinnest rims allow the wine to move smoothly between the glass and your mouth.

Wine glass shapes and sizes
Wine glass shapes and sizes Source: Marcia Wendorf

The types of wine glasses are:

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  • Cabernet - the universal red wine glass has a large bowl and tall stem. The large bowl provides more surface area, allowing the wine to oxidize, or breathe. This softens the tannins that are found in red wines, and the shape of the bowl directs the wine to the center of the palate
  • Burgundy - the round fishbowl shape traps the aromas of this full-bodied wine. The narrow rim directs the wine to the center of the palate and mitigates acidity
  • Bordeaus - taller than Burgundy glasses, Bordeaux glasses encourage you to swirl the wine and allow it to breathe. The shape directs the wine to the back of the tongue, reducing the effects of tannins
  • Zinfandel - the narrower opening of these glasses minimizes any tannins, allowing the fruit and spice flavors of Zinfandel to shine through
  • Pinot Noir - the large bowl of these glasses allows the wine to breathe, and the distinctive shape traps the aromas within the glass. The rim directs the wine to the front of the mouth, accentuating the sweet flavors
  • Chardonnay - the large bowl exposes the wine to the air, balancing any oaky flavors. The wide rim spreads the wine across the palate, allowing all the complex flavors to be enjoyed
  • White - the narrow bowl keeps white wines, such as Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio and Riesling, from losing their flavor. The narrow rim helps to keep the wine chilled and focuses the wine on the center of the tongue
  • Champagne - the narrow bowl keeps the bubbles in wines such as Champagne, Prosecco and Cava, while the narrow rim keeps the wine cool
  • Port - these desert wine glasses are small because much less liquid is poured. Port has a higher alcohol content than other wines, around 20% alcohol by volume. It's OK to hold the bowl of Port glasses because your body heat helps release aromatics in the wine.

Wine glass materials

You can buy wine glasses made of various materials. If money is no object, crystal wine glasses are the way to go. They are thinner than those made of glass, allowing for a thinner rim and a more seamless transition of the wine to the tongue.

Crystal is porous, so hand washing rather than a dishwasher is called for, however, some lead-free crystal glasses are dishwasher-safe.

The next tier down is handmade glass glasses. These are made by craftsmen using a technique dating back a thousand years. Most handmade glasses should only be hand washed.

Machine-made glasses are just as good looking as their handmade counterparts, and they are dishwasher-friendly. Always place wine glasses on the top rack of your dishwasher, and away from anything that could damage them.

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Acrylic glasses are the way to go if your gang is rough and tumble. They hold up to being dropped or banged, and they are dishwasher-safe.

Wine serving temperatures

Different varietals of wine should be served at different temperatures.

  • Sparkling wines - should be served cold, at 40 to 50 degrees F
  • White wines and rosé wines - should be served at 50 to 60 degrees F
  • Red wines - should be served at 60 to 70 degrees F.
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