So, does size really matter in the Wine World? I’m afraid to say, yes it does! But it’s not the bigger the better….
I’m sure you have seen, or tasted, wine from different sized bottles.
Did you ever wonder if it was just for show or convenience, or did it affect the flavour?
Well, it’s a combination of them all really and I thought you might be interested to know why!
Here are the main size differentials for Bordeaux wines (yes, there are more sizes and exceptions for different areas just to confuse you!):
- Piccolo (small in Italian) 1/4
- Demi (half in French) 1/2
- Standard (750ml) 1
- Magnum ( ‘Great’/Extra large in Latin ) 2
- Marie-Jeanne 3
- Double Magnum 4
- Jeroboam 6
- Imperiale 8
In Burgundy, the following amendments are applicable:
- Older Jeroboams are called Rehoboams
- Imperiale is called Methuselah
And with Champagne, they get EVEN BIGGER!
- Salmanazar 12
- Balthazar 16
- Nebuchadnezzar 20
- Primat/Paramount 36
- Melchizedek 40
You are probably also wondering where all the strange names came from? Well, these are named after historical Kings and Biblical Characters. For example, Jeroboam comes from Jeroboam II, King of Israel when Rome was founded. Marie-Jeanne is named after Marie-Jeanne Ozanne from Bordeaux who lived 1734-1786, but I don’t know anymore so if anyone has any more information please let me know!
So, does size really matter? Well the bottle size preferred by Bordeaux collectors is the Imperiale. This is because it has the best air : wine ratio, as such a small amount of air is present between the cork and the wine, that it allows the wine to develop much more slowly, thus producing much more exqusite flavours and balance to the wine overall.
With Champagne, the favoured bottle is the Magnum. This is usually the largest bottle in which Champagne itself is fermented in (sometimes, rarely, the Double Magnum). Champagne is fermented within the bottle and the flavours develop over time (see the Wine Angel website or country information in the Grapes section of the iphone app, for further information).
This maturation, or oxidisation, can occur much more slowly in the Magnum size bottle. This is because there is less air per litre than in the standard bottle, so there is a slower evolution of flavour and this creates a more elegant and balanced wine. Note the larger bottles have actually had smaller, finished Champagne poured into them so have no benefits..apart from the show factor! So unless your name is Hamilton or Button, I’d stay well clear!
Also there is a danger with the smaller, 1/4 or 1/2 size bottles of Champagne. These are great fun and very handy for picnics and in nightclubs or bars. They sell fantastically well. But please don’t think these will age very well like the other bottle sizes- they won’t. They don’t stay fresh for very long, so drink them asap!
So, when it comes to size, I have to say yes, it does matter!