We assume that wine bottles are 75 cl, which is in fact the standard capacity. There are reasons and they must be sought in the history of France and England. Let's see why.
Of all the possible formats, the 75 cl one is undoubtedly the one used by the vast majority of all producers in the world. To understand why we must take a step back to the beginning of the story.
Where was wine stored in ancient times?
For centuries wine has been preserved in the most diverse containers : terracotta amphorae, ceramic vases, leather wineskins...
When is the bottle of wine born?
The bottle similar to the one we know today was born in the sixteenth century , at the French court of Catherine de' Medici : wine began to be stored in glass bottles covered with wicker.
When did the use of glass bottles spread?
More large-scale production of blown glass bottles took hold, again in France , a couple of centuries later. Since the eighteenth century , wine has therefore increasingly been bottled in glass bottles.
How large are the first bottles of wine?
The dimensions of the bottles are variable: their capacity ranges from 70 cl to approximately 1 litre .
The 75 cl bottle is therefore starting to make its way...
It is precisely at this moment, during the eighteenth century, that the bottle with a capacity similar to the one we have today codified as the 75 cl bottle took shape: it seems that the master glassmakers who blew the glass were able to achieve roughly this maximum bottle size . The capacity and shape of the bottles back then were clearly very dependent on the skills of these craftsmen.
What do the English have to do with this story?
The English must also have contributed to the codification of the 75 cl bottle, who have always been huge importers of wine from France. Historically, an English case contained two gallons of wine : one gallon corresponds to approximately 4.5 litres. For functionality, it was convenient to insert 12 bottles, 75 cl in fact. So yes: the English played a role in consolidating the 75cl format.
Is this why wine is transported in cases of 6 or 12?
Yes. It is due to the historic English role in the wine trade that even today, in the Anglo-Saxon tradition , wine transport crates contain 2 gallons of wine, i.e. 12 bottles . While in Italy the crates for transporting wine mostly contain 6 .
Returning to the 75 bottle, did the tasting itself influence the coding of the capacity?
The reasons we have seen are probably also intertwined with other, very practical ones linked to the administration of wine in the tavern . The 75 cl bottle allows you to obtain 6 glasses. In this way the innkeeper could calculate (and easily keep track of) the number of bottles to open for customers.
When is the 75 cl bottle officially codified?
Up to now we have followed a codification of the 75 cl bottle given by practice, but it is only with industrialization that we arrive at a homogeneous and precise production of bottles of this capacity. We then arrive at 1975 and the codification of the capacity of the containers in which wine can be marketed (European directive on packaging). Among these, there is the 75 cl bottle. These legislative interventions were then followed by similar ones on other continents, making the sizes of wine bottles universal.
The 75 bottle is the most common, but it is not the only one. Other formats?
For Passiti , for example, the bottles used are 37.5 or 50 cl (the " half "), since these are limited and precious productions .
The larger capacity bottles are mainly linked to the history of Champagne. Not in common use, they have curious names, often linked to the Bible :
capacity: 1.5 liters, the classic double
the name is taken from Cicero, who used it for great leaders
The name comes from the Bible, from the son of Solomon who unified the 10 tribes of Israel
Again from the Bible, another son of Solomon
This is the oldest man in the Bible, who lived to be 969 years old
The name comes from an Assyrian king from the Bible
The last king of Babylon
The king who leads Babylon to its greatest splendor
Melchior or Solomon
Respectively: one of the three wise men and the wise king who unifies the state of Israel
The name comes from the vernacular and means "first order".
The priest who blessed Abraham by offering bread and wine.
Does the size of the bottle influence wine?
The size of the bottle affects the refinement of the wine. In the small ones the wine matures faster, because there is a lot of oxygen in relation to the wine and this accelerates the oxidation process. Otherwise, as the capacity of the bottle increases, the ratio goes in favor of the wine in the case of larger bottles. This is why the Magnum is (rightly) considered to be of better quality.
On a side note, it is good to remember that the color of the bottle is also important for prolonging the life of a wine that you want to refine for a long time: dark glass bottles offer good protection from light.