I recently went to a dinner party at a friend’s home where there was to be a total of 12 guests enjoying the fruits of her labor. Knowing full well that she had every food base covered down to the last detail, I still asked politely if there was anything I could bring. I listened as she gave me her standard response, “just bring a bottle of wine”. Well then, that is exactly what I did.
But it wasn’t just any bottle of wine. Knowing that this affair would be a lengthy indulgence of food, frolic, and plenty of laughter, I wanted to bring a bottle that I knew everyone would enjoy. I also wanted to make sure that it would leave a lasting impression. I didn’t need to forage my cellar for a rare Burgundy, a 1982 Chateau Petrus, or the latest cult Cabernet from California to win over this crowd. I did what I could to impress yet adhere to my host’s request of bringing a bottle of wine.
When I walked into the room with my bottle, eyes lit up, tongues began to wag and simultaneous applause and laughter filled the room. I held in my hands, more appropriately, I should say I held in my arms, a Methusalah, some may call it an Imperiale, 8 bottles of wine all enclosed in one single bottle. It is what is referred to as a large format bottle of wine.
With a confused look and a wide eyed smile, my gracious host asked, “What is this”? I said I did what I was told. I brought a bottle of wine. Although everyone else invited was given the exact same task as myself, I looked at the dilemma of the request from the inside out. If I was to bring a great bottle of wine of standard size, with a guest list of 12 people, each person would be treated to about a half a glass. If the wine lived up to its reputation, it would merely serve as a teaser for my wine loving friends. I could have brought 2 bottles to further satisfy the group but that was not my assignment. Thus, I solved my problem by bringing what I was requested, only on a larger scale.
I relate this story to you in regards to my topic this week, the various sizes of bottles that wine is presented. From the smallest to the largest, their names, their history.
Today, the delicate artistry used to craft wine labels is also being reflected in the various forms and shapes that standard size wine bottles themselves are now being displayed. When they expand to double and triple their normal size, a beautiful magic unfolds right before your eyes. The pageantry of opening a large format bottle of wine is as exciting as drinking the creativeness stored inside.
Over the years, vessels made for storing wine came in a ocean of various shapes and sizes. From animal skin bags, terra cotta amphorae, wooden barrels, to present day glass containers, it took quite a long time to regulate the amount of liquid held in any particular bottle. With strict local rules and regulations combined with global standardization, bottling practices around the world are pretty much the same from place to place. Wine in its present form looks the same no matter where you live or travel on this planet.
Modern technology allows glass makers the freedom to create unique shapes when it comes to the bottles we see on store shelves. It is at times frustrating to try and store these newfangled vessels in our wine racks because some of these new shapes just don’t fit in our regular shelving units. But one thing remains constant, the amount held inside.
Most people are familiar with the traditional 750ml bottle that contain just over 25 ounces of wine, enough to pour 5 to 6 glasses. Some people find the convenience of buying half bottles that hold 375ml when they do not care to drink a full bottle of wine. It contains 2 ½ to 3 glasses of wine, enough that you do not have to recork and salvage whatever liquid you were not able to consume.
Restaurants wine lists have also bought into the program of half bottles with their patrons more cautious of drinking and driving. Until recent changes in state laws dictated that when your left over wine could not be taken home from a restaurant, this program would fit the bill for many who did not want to commit to a full bottle of wine with their meal.
But when is the time to think big. How big? Well, the wine world is your oyster these days. Just how big depends on your wallet size and how many people you want to share your prize with. Most wines can easily be found in the magnum format, containing 1.5 liters, the equivalent of 2 standard bottles able to serve about 12 glasses of wine. For anything larger, we need to think royally and for good reason.
Coming soon……. Part 2