The Largest Bottles Of Champagne Are Called?
If you live the same kind of low-glamour pedestrian life we lead, then we will absolutely forgive you for not knowing that champagne came in anything but “the bottle” size. There is, however, a long history of wineries bottling champagne in ever bigger and more dramatically sized bottles. These bottles have been, historically, named after Biblical kings and figures.
To start our journey into the land of fabulously sized and incredibly expensive bottles of champagne, we’ll begin with the regular old bottle we’re all familiar with as a frame of reference. The most common sized bottle of champagne is 750 ml (0.75 L) and is formally called a “Standard”—though outside of the industry, people simply call it a “bottle of champagne” as the size is so ubiquitous. Some restaurants carry “Magnum” size bottles, which are 1.5 L and equivalent to two standard bottles.
Beyond the Magnum bottle, we begin our adventure into the land of Biblical names. A Jeroboam is 3.0 L (4 bottles) and is named after the first king of the Northern Kingdom. A Methuselah is 6.0 L (8 bottles) and named after the oldest man in the Bible. A Balthazar is 12 L (16 bottles) and named after one of the three wise men who presented gifts at Jesus’ nativity. The naming scheme continues all the way up to the largest bottle produced, the Melchizedek, King of Salem, whose name is attached to a 30 L bottle which contains the equivalent of a staggering 40 standard size bottles.
Now, if you’re contemplating such volumes of champagne and asking yourself if it’s worth getting your hands on such a monstrous bottle, we’re here to tell you, definitively: no. Aside from the bragging rights purchasing such a bottle brings, the product itself tends to be noticeably inferior to a smaller bottle. The reason for this is that most wineries are not sufficiently outfitted to carry out secondary fermentation of the champagne in the larger bottles.
Once you get beyond the Magnum size, it becomes increasingly difficult and expensive to riddle the bottles. Riddling is a traditional process in which the bottles are stored neck down at a 45 degree angle and gently and routinely agitated, with the angle being gradually increased during the process. With that in mind, to fill the larger bottles, the wineries are forced to mix the contents of smaller bottles into a larger bottle, a process that exposes the champagne to open air (which can cause oxidation of the wine) and reduces the carbonation and pressure levels in the resulting mixture. Now that you know there are giant bottles of champagne out there that cost more than a small car, you also know that popping the cork on a regular old standard bottle is just as solid of an (albeit less dramatic) experience.
Image by Walter Nissen/Wikimedia.