Various glass containers for liquids were already being produced in ancient Egypt as early as 1,500 BC. But it was not until the invention of the glassmaker's pipe (and thus glassblowing) in the 2nd century BC by the Phoenicians in the area of Syria that the Romans were able to produce glass bottles on a larger scale from the beginning of our era. The oldest wine bottle in the world is on display in a museum in Speyer. It was found in a Roman grave and dates from the 4th century AD. However, due to the fragility of glass, vessels made of clay or earthenware and wooden barrels were still mainly used for transport and storage until the 17th century. Furthermore, wine was not marketed in small containers at that time, but almost exclusively in large containers (mainly wooden barrels).
Half the world was ruled by England at that time. Many Englishmen had possessions in Portugal (where they founded the port wine industry), in Spain (where the same was true for sherry), in Sicily (where Marsala was also invented by an Englishman) and in Bordeaux, each with a lively wine trade with the mother country. Overseas this was the case in the Caribbean, in this case with spirits such as gin or rum. It is therefore no coincidence that the bottle for wine or alcoholic beverages was "invented" in England or that the production of these was perfected. In 1652, the English diplomat Sir Kenelm Digby (1603-1665) developed an improved technique for its production, but did not bother to patent it. John Colnett, who applied for a patent in 1661, was the one who achieved fame. Initially they had a spherical body with a long neck and slowly developed until the beginning of the 18th century into onion-shaped, short-necked vessels known as "mallet" or "horse's foot". The olive-green bottles shown in the picture (17 cm high, 14 cm in diameter) were made from forest glass (potash glass) in Northern Germany from about 1710 to 1750 for the Dutch market.
At that time the use of corks as closures was already widespread. The bottles were fitted with a bead at the top of the neck, which served as a safety device for the stoppers, which were fastened with cords. A glass seal was also often melted onto the body of the bottle, which also contained the nominal volume but no table of contents. This offered a certain protection against bar fraud by bottles that were too small. After the advent of glass bottles in the middle of the 17th century, it was forbidden to sell wine by the bottle for a very long time. Because the different sizes of the bottles would have opened the door to fraud. Until the beginning of the 19th century, the bulbous spherical shape was replaced by the roller shape that is common today, because it was far better suited to stacking the bottles. The first producer of bottles in this shape was Ricketts in the English city of Bristol, for which the company held a patent. It was at this time that the first labels in today's form came into use.
Despite the industrial production of glass bottles, the marketing in bottles was rather the exception until well into the 20th century and was mainly done only for better qualities. For the most part, wine was marketed in barrels, in addition to the above-mentioned reason, also for practical reasons because of easier transport. In many countries, general bottling only became established after the Second World War. Many countries, wine-growing regions and also producers created specific bottle shapes, sizes and colours to create a distinctive identity for marketing reasons. In the German wine growing region of Saxony, the cone-shaped Sachsenkeule is common, in the Rheingau wine growing region the slim, brown Schlegel bottle and in the Mosel wine growing region the same in green colour. The Schlegel bottle (also high bottle) is most commonly used for white wines in Austria, Germany, Switzerland and the French region of Alsace.
The Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne bottles, which are significant in terms of shape and colour and named after the regions, originate from France, but are now used worldwide. The Burgundy bottle in particular became popular worldwide in a short time due to the Chardonnay boom in the 1980s. In addition, there are special bottles in many countries, such as the Clavelin for Vin Jaune, the wire-braided Alambrado for Rioja, the Bocksbeutel in Franconia (also common in Greece and for Armagnac), the Albeisa in Piedmont for Barolo and Barbaresco or, in the past, the unspeakable raffia-braided Fiasco for Chianti. There are also individually designed bottles for producers.
For a long time the standard size for wine bottles was usually 0.7 litres. According to an unsubstantiated thesis, it goes back to the famous monk Dom Pérignon (1638-1715), who determined this as the average consumption of male adults at dinner. Others assume purely practical reasons, as this also corresponds approximately to the amount of air that a glassblower can take in at once in the lungs. However, large wine containers of up to 30 bottles were also in use. These balloon-shaped vessels were mainly used for storage. The first bottle size legally stipulated within a country was the "Pinte de Paris" introduced in 1735 under the French King Louis XV (1710-1774). This hollow measure for wine, beer and cider bottles was 0.93 litres and had a minimum weight of 25 ounces (765 g).
Wine bottles in Europe had a volume of around 0.7 litres, ranging from 0.65 to 0.85, which lasted until the 1970s. Only then did the current standard of 0.75 or three quarter liters for wines prevail worldwide. Since 1977, 0.75 l has been the European standard for wine bottles; in Germany, however, 0.7 l was still used until 1987. This size is also called 1/1 (one part) in the gastronomy. In Switzerland (Vaud), however, the 0.7-litre bottle is still in use today, and the 0.75-litre size is still not consistently used in the USA. For spirits, however, the volume is still mostly 0.7 litres. But there are also numerous smaller volumes and oversizes, which are listed below (see also under nominal volume).
Especially in the French wine-growing regions of Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne, it has long been customary to bottle wine or sparkling wine in larger bottles. The bottle maturing in larger bottles is slower, which usually has a very positive effect on the development. For wine, the most common magnum is one and a half litres and the double magnum is three litres. The oversizes above this are usually only showpieces for marketing activities. In order to protect the wine from the damaging effect of UV light, most wine bottles are produced with dark coloured glass. For practical reasons, many bottles have an indentation at the bottom of the bottle.
Most bottle oversizes are named after famous biblical characters. But there are different versions about the origin. The famous wine author André Simon (1877-1970) said that the names were chosen in reference to the greatness and in honour of the mighty kings of Israel (but not all kings are). The first use of biblical names dates from 1725, when winegrowers in Bordeaux used Jeroboam for the six-fold bottle. The alleged reason was that it was called "man of great value". It is possible that they were inspired by Eugene Destuche, a poet from Champagne, who mentioned Jeroboam and others of the later names in his works.
The tradition of using biblical names for oversized formats was only continued in the 1940s, especially in France. Some of them have different volumes in Champagne (for champagne) and Bordeaux (for still wines). From a volume of six litres upwards, they are mostly only used for champagne in small quantities or for marketing purposes. Some F oversizes are used exclusively for storage or maturing, such as the Demijohn (Lady Jane) with a volume of 45 litres and the contents are then decanted into normal bottles before marketing. For ship christenings the three champagne or sparkling wine oversizes Magnum (1.5 l), Jeroboam (3 l) or Rehoboam (4.5 l) are preferred.
The new EU wine market regulation, which came into effect in 2009, also resulted in changes to the wine containers. In the past, quality wines could only be sold to consumers in glass bottles, wooden barrels or ceramic containers. In order to increase competitiveness vis-à-vis third countries, this provision, which was disadvantageous for EU countries, was deleted without replacement. Quality wine may therefore now be bottled without restriction in a wide variety of containers, including bag-in-boxes and Tetra Pak. See also other lists of wine containers under Barrel types and wine containers.
Still wines - Spirits
|-||0,02||Miniature bottles (e.g. Underberg)||-|
|-||0,10||Sextan, e.g. used for balsamic vinegar||-|
|0,25||0,1875||Nip (Dinky, Quarter), Pony (additionally also 0.375 l)||Quarto de Bouteille|
|-||0,20||Pikkolo (registered trademark of Henkell), Stifterl||-|
|-||0,25||no specific name||-|
|0,5||0,375||Demi-bouteille, three-eighths, fillets
Half bottle, Split, Stifterl, Tenth
|-||0,568||Imperial Pint (England)||-|
|-||0,62||Clavelin - used for Vin Jaune||-|
|-||0,70||mostly used for spirits||-|
|1||0,75||Bouteille, Bottiglia, Botella, Bottle||Bouteille|
|1,24||0,93||Pinte de Paris (France)||-|
|1,33||1||mainly for simple wine||-|
|3||2,25||Marie-Jeanne, Tappit hen, Tregnum||-|
|4||3||Double magnum, double magnum||Jeroboam|
|6||4,5||Jeroboam (Bordeaux) until 1977||Rehoboam|
|6,66||5||Jeroboam (Bordeaux) since 1978||-|
|10,66||8||no special name||-|
|60||45||Demijohn (Demijon, Demi John, Lady Jane)||-|
|387||290||Shiraz 2005 from 5 wineries||Australia|
|640||480||TBA 2007||Austria - Firecrackers|
Among sommeliers there is a mnemonic (alluding to the alleged but never proven inclination of the famous pop star) for the correct order of bottle sizes: Michael Jackson Really Makes Boys Nervous (Michael Jackson makes little boys really nervous). That makes Magnum, Jeroboam, Rehoboam, Methuselah, Salmanazar, Balthazar and Nebuchadnezzar. But in this list some of the oversizes are missing, but the table above contains all formats.
The three largest wine bottles in the world are specially made to order. The third largest bottle belongs to the Australian wine dealer Kim Bullock and was used in 2007 to promote Australian products. At 196 centimetres high, it is oversized and weighs 485 kilograms. The bottle, which is manufactured in Germany and filled in Australia, contains the contents of 387 normal wine bottles with 0.75 litres, which results in a volume of over 290 litres (which corresponds to approximately 1.3 classic barrique barrels). The bottle contains a 2005 Shiraz(Syrah) cuvée from five Australian wineries. It is closed with a special Portuguese cork.
The second largest wine bottle was filled in Burgenland (Austria) in 2007. It was produced by the company Lenz Laborglas in Wertheim am Main (Germany), is 2.40 m high, weighs 630 kg, has a diameter of 68 cm, a wall thickness of 1 cm and holds 480 litres. It was filled with a Trockenbeerenauslese from the Kracher winery in Illmitz(Neusiedlersee). The record bottle was commissioned by the Swiss entrepreneur Migg Eberle, owner of a restaurant and collector of large bottles. The "TBA Grande Cuvee vintage 2005 number 7" was sealed with a 1 kg cork of 18 cm diameter made in France. The cost was about 75.000 Euro, the content is worth about 50.000 Euro. The "wine priest" Hans Denk (1942-2019), well known in Austria, gave the bottle his blessing on its way to Switzerland. There it will be exhibited in the "Gasthaus zum Gupf AG" in the community of Rehetobel near Rorschach (Appenzell). However, the bottle should never be opened, but only serve as a showpiece.
By far the largest wine bottle in the world comes from Watt in the Swiss canton of Zurich. It is 3.80 metres high, has a diameter of around one metre and, with its wooden frame, weighs over three tonnes. The volume is 2,011 litres with a cuvée ofPinot Noir (Blauburgunder) and Dornfelder from Watter sites, which corresponds to 2,681 bottles of 0.75 litres. The cork is "pillow-sized". The bottle was made in Thurgau, the wooden frame was built by a carpenter from Watt. The giant bottle is in the Guinness Book of Records. The content was given out to the visitors of the annual village festival in autumn 2011. See also other dimensional lists under barrel types, hollow measures and wine vessels.