|Champagne bottles are unlike most wine bottles. Made of thicker glass, the features of a bottle of champagne include gently sloping sides and a deep indentation on the underside known as a punt. The unique design of the champagne bottle has arisen as much out of necessity as it has out of style; it is built to be able to withstand the high pressure inside the bottle which 80-90psi (5-6 atm) – three times the pressure in a standard car tyre.Unlike several non-champagne sparkling wines which are fermented in tanks, the secondary fermentation of champagne is carried out in the bottles themselves – this allows for a very high quality wine, with longer lasting, more integrated bubbles; and a creamier, more complex flavour as it allows a longer ageing on yeast as a part of the process. This in-bottle fermentation is a part of the Method Champenoise or Method Traditionelle, and is what makes champagne such a high-quality wine. It is what separates Champagne from other sparkling wines.
At the same time champagne bottles characterize the House they come from and many champagne Houses characterize their cuvées by the bottle they are produced in. It is not rare to see Houses producing special bottles for special cuvées such as Dom Pérignon’s 2002 Warhol Limited Edition Bottles, for their exclusive new vintage 2002 champagne; or for a special person such as Pol Roger’s special bottle and cuvée as a gift to Winston Churchill.
Champagne is usually fermented in two sizes of bottle – standard or bouteille, which holds 750ml and magnum, which holds 1.5l. Magnums are seen to be more favourable, as there is less oxygen in the bottle, which allows the aroma and taste to develop better. Furthermore the volume to surface area ratio gives rise to the formation of the desired size of bubble.
In order to produce the larger bottles such as the Jeroboam, Methuselah, Balthazar etc., the champagne has to be transferred to them after fermenting. However experts claim that damage to the taste and quality of the champagne as there will invariably be a loss of pressure on transfer which leads to a loss of bubbles; and more chance of oxidation which damages the taste, colour and aroma of the champagne. Thus there are some Houses that undergo the second fermentation in the larger bottles.
Champagne bottle sizes range from ones containing just enough champagne for one person to have a single glass up to enough for an entire wedding reception. There are appropriate sized bottles for a family celebration to an office party. The larger bottles are named after Biblical figures, though the reason behind this is not explicitly known, it is thought that perhaps it was the case to evoke importance.
Here is a list of all the champagne bottle sizes:
||Amount of glasses
||1 small glass
|Quart (or piccolo)
||2 small glasses
|Bouteille (or Standard)
|Jeroboam – King of Israel in 753 BC.
|Rehoboam – Son of Solomon and king of Judah during 933 BC.
|Methuselah- ancient bilbical patriarch who lived for 969 years.
|Salmanazar – Assyrian king that reigned around 1250 BC.
|Balthazar – regent of Babylon, living in the 6th century BC.c
|Nebuchadnezzar – King of the Chaldean Empire in 604 BC.
|Solomon – wise King of Israel, son of King David (or Mechior – name given to one of the Wise Men)
|Melchizedek – a great high priest and King of Salem; High Priest of Abraham
Bottles larger than the Jeroboam are rare. Former president of France, Charles de Gaulle’s favourite champagne was Drappier, which, famous for its oversized champagne bottles, uniquely produced the Primat and the Melchizedek – the world’s largest bottle. Drappier is the only champagne House that carries out fermentation in these oversized bottles.
It is no easy feat to create a large bottle of champagne that can handle its immense pressure. Consequently the bottles themselves become priceless collectors’ items, not unlike the champagne they contain.
Unique sizes have been produced by certain houses for special occasions and prominent figures; notable is the afformentioned Champagne Pol Roger which created a pint-sized 60cl champagne bottle for Sir Winston Churchill, an aficionado of the House.
In 2009 the Guinness World Records recognised a bottle of 1825 Perrier-Jouët champagne as the oldest bottle of champagne in the world. The bottle was opened at a ceremony attended by 12 of the world’s chief wine tasters. Only two other bottles of this 1825 vintage remain.
Another old lot of champagne bottles were discovered by divers in July 2010 on board a shipwreck in the Baltic Sea near the Aland Islands. The almost perfect, dark and cold conditions in the sea preserved the bottle and its contents. The bottles, which were found to be from the inoperative House – Juglar, are rumoured to be worth around €50,000 if the cork is intact and the contents are drinkable.
With all the thought, science and precision that goes into a champagne bottle, it’s no wonder these artefacts are valued almost as much as the champagne they contain.