Nebuchadnezzar: Wine's king-size bottle
Nov. 28, 2001
Have you ever dined at a fine restaurant in New Orleans, Memphis, Atlanta or another major city and seen a giant bottle of wine displayed? I don't mean just slightly bigger than normal. We're talking about bottles as big as a 4-year-old child.
The obvious conclusion would be they're not real, just an advertising gimmick. Granted there are some fakes, but in a good restaurant most are real. The reason you don't see them in Mississippi is wine purchased by restaurants and package stores for resale in Mississippi must come from the state warehouse and they're in the business of fast turnover. Giant-size bottles have a very limited market. They do stock many magnums and they can be ordered but, to the best of my knowledge, beyond that point you cannot go.
Wine is bottled in a wide variety of sizes. Big bottles are eyecatching, which is why some restaurants or package stores stock them and display them. Not in Mississippi. You won't see them in Edna's in Meridian but you will in Martin's Wine Cellar in New Orleans.
The standard wine bottle is familiarly known as a fifth. It contains approximately 26 ounces. Keep that in mind as we run the scale.
Next is the magnum. That holds two fifths or about 52 ounces.
From there, we move to the jeroboam. The jeroboam contains four standard fifths or 104 ounces.
Next is the Rehoboam, the equivalent of six regular bottles.
We're really getting into the biggies now. The first one containing over a gallon of wine is the methusela. It holds eight fifths or 1.65 gallons.
The 12-bottle container is called a salmanazar. Now you're up to 2.44 gallons.
A balthazar will hold the equivalent of 16 bottles, 416 ounces or 3.3 gallons.
The largest commercially produced wine bottle on the market to is the Nebuchadnezzar. This bottle is a true giant. Get two men to help you lift it on the table. The nebuchadnezzar is a 20-bottle container holding 520 ounces of wine which translates into 4.07 gallons.
Think about it in these terms. There are 12 bottles in a case. In other words, the salmanazar, in effect, holds a full case of wine in one bottle. The nebuchadnezzar holds one and two thirds cases. If you've ever picked up a case of wine you'll know why you need two men to help you with what amounts to 20 bottles in one box.
Since tomorrow night's wine tasting features champagne, we checked the state list to see whether there were any magnums available. Of the 39 French champagnes offered, only one, Paul Bara brut, comes in magnums. There is no price break either. This champagne is packaged in six-bottle cases. Considering the approximate standard markup, a magnum of this little-known wine would cost you about $100 but since you are actually getting two bottles in the magnum, the price could be considered as roughly $50 each.
None of the French champagnes, Bruno Paillard, Drappier Grande or Krug Grande to be served tomorrow are available even in magnums although I know each has them available in the extra-large bottles.
Seats still available
The same is true of the sparkling wines on the list, the Pacific Echo, the Iron Horse or the Chateau Ste. Michelle. The tasting is, as usual, at Northwood Country Club, but you do not have to be a member to attend. It starts at 6:30 p.m. and the Krug is the featured wine of the evening. It is one of France's greatest champagnes with a retail price between $140 and $160 per bottle. The cost for this one night only is $35 because of the price of champagne. Seats are still available. For further information call 482-0930.
There is little difference in the taste of wines from big bottles and the regular fifths. What difference there is can be tasted only in vintage champagne since wine in big bottles ages more slowly than the same wine in the smaller regular bottles. What we will taste tomorrow night is expected to be at its peak. With Christmas coming, being able to taste these wines in advance will certainly help our holiday planning.
Stan Torgerson, a longtime resident of Meridian, writes a weekly wine column for The Meridian Star.