Size Matters: Is the Bigger Bottle Better?

Due to the ubiquitous nature of wine and champagne in today’s society, most people can identify what a standard bottle looks like. Some are even able to recall the term “magnum” as a way to describe a bottle larger than average. Outside of the world of winemaking, connoisseurs, and wine and champagne collectors, many do not know that there are very specific names for larger bottles. Each delineates how many liters are in each, corresponding with how many “standard” bottles it equals.

In “Wine Bottle Sizes from Magnum to Melchizedek: When Should Collectors Give Large Format Bottles A Try?” written for the wine website Vinfolio, Derek Cienfuego gives insight into the background of larger bottles. Cienfuego writes:

In the mid-1700s, when the first big wine bottles were made, winemakers initially put wine in larger bottles because they thought the wine looked more appetizing that way. It was only later that they discovered that the wine inside actually aged more slowly than wine in smaller bottles. Generally, this is still true, but that’s only if the bottle’s seal is perfect. Supposing that a large bottle of wine has a perfectly-shaped cork, you’ll find less ullage in a large bottle than in a small bottle. Ullage is the space between the wine and the bottom of the cork, and in large bottles, very little air creeps into the bottle over time because the glass is usually thick and the pressure from the wine inside keeps air out. This means less oxidation, slower aging, and less spoilage.

According to this theory, if you want to age a special wine and have the patience to wait 20 or more years, “buying a large format bottle might be your best investment choice” (Cienfuego 2016).

Derek Cienfuegos, “Wine Bottle Sizes from Magnum to Melchizedek: When Should Collectors Give Large Format Bottles a Try?” Vinfolio, July 25, 2016, accessed April 7, 2018,