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Oct 13, 2008 03:56 PM

Why is 750ml the standard wine bottle size?

Just wondering why 3/4 liter became the norm rather than a nice round 1.0 liter?

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  1. You're presuming that a liter was a standard measurement. Bottles of wine existed long before liters ever did . . .

    2 Replies
    1. re: zin1953

      A recent SF Chronicle travel article about Hadrian's wall reports that a Roman wine flagon held exactly 750 ml.

      1. re: Glencora

        >>> flagon held exactly 750 ml <<<

        Until machine molds came into existence, no two flagons, bottles, amphorae, etc. held "exactly" anything . . . .and no two were "exactly" alike.

    2. Because it's the perfect single serving size ;)

      2 Replies
      1. re: mojoeater

        That's not such a smart*** answer as it sounds--that's actually one theory. Here's an article I found on the subject:

        It seems the 750 ml "standard" is fairly recent (70's) and was, in fact, a metric adaptation of the fifth (fifth of a gallon) which was standard in the US & Britain.

        1. re: Jeri L

          Just as the 225L barrique is the largest size a person can actually carry, so too was the 750ml bottle (or "close enough") the size a person could "blow".

      2. In addition to the 750ml and magnum (1.5l) formats the litre format
        used to be widespread in France at the gut rot end of the wine
        market. When I was a kid you could buy wine in 1l plastic bottles
        for cheaper than either milk or bottled water. The winos used to
        love this stuff. This format is still around but has fallen in deserved
        disrepute. So you could say the 1l format has a serious image

        4 Replies
        1. re: bclevy

          Only in Europe. In the States, itwas the "gallon jug" (now a 4.0L size) that had a bad image. ;^)

          1. re: zin1953

            No bad image when my dear old Italian grandmother-in-law brought one up from the cellar. ; >P



          2. re: bclevy

            If you're referring to the "vin étoilé" ( glass bottles embossed with stars halfway around the neck ), it was one liters but -as far as I can remember- glass, not plastic.
            I don't recall it being favored by winos alone, was kind of the common everyday wine in any petit burgeois home up until mid 70s or so.

            1. re: RicRios

              Yes you are right they were glass. the 750 bottle Napoleon made it a law for taxing reasons.

          3. This is interesting because I've got some 1976 German riesling ausleses that are 700 millilters. I was wondering when 750ml became standard.

            16 Replies
            1. re: SteveTimko


              I am not sure about those 1976 Germans -- you may want to double-check. But to answer your question, starting in 1972 (1971?), nations of the world agreed by treaty that -- starting with the 1973 vintage, the "standard bottle" would be 750ml.

              Even then, there were problems! The French, in particular the Bordelais, took "750ml" to mean a "flush fill"; therefore, once the cork was inserted, the actual volume of wine within was only 730ml. The glass itself was embossed "750ml" but the labels read "730ml" . . . WRONG! So they re-created all the bottle molds so that -- when FULL -- a standard bottle held 750ml, and a standard case of wine was 9.0L.

              Before this, French Champagnes held 25.6 ounces (four-fifths of a quart; one-fifth of a gallon), the same as American wines. Bordeaux and Burgundy were 750ml (25.4 ounces), but Chateau Grillet was 700ml, and many Jura wines were 720ml.

              American wines were 4/5 pint, 4/5 quart, 1/2 gallon, and 1 gallon. Distillates were 1/2 pint, 1 pint, 4/5 quart, 1 quart (bar bottle), 1/2 gallon, and 1 gallon.

              Post-treaty, the sizes are now 50ml ("airline" miniatures), 187ml, 375ml, 750ml, 1.0L (bar bottles), 1.5L (magnum -- wine only), 1.75L (distillates only), and any larger size that is in full liters (i.e.: 3.0L, 4.0L, 5.0L, 6.0L, etc.).

              1. re: zin1953

                This must be for international sale, because Germans still put a lot of wine in 1 litre bottles for general consumer consumption. Good stuff, too. I took it to be a charming expression of orderly, mathematical germanness. And I saw some 1,2 litre bottles in the southern rhineland, which I took to be a charming expression of how ornery things get in those parts of Germany where you can see France and vice versa.

                1. re: tmso

                  >>> Germans still put a lot of wine in 1 litre bottles for general consumer consumption. <<<

                  So, too, the French and the Austrians. Although you CAN find some Austrian Gruner Veltliner in 1.0L bottles here in the U.S., and nothing prevents wines from being sold in 1.0L containers, for the most part it IS (primarily) for domestic consumption (i.e.: within Germany, within France, etc.).


                  1. re: zin1953

                    While you can get wine in 1L containers in France, I've never seen (or maybe noticed) the good stuff coming in that size.

                    1. re: tmso

                      No. I agree. It's typically vin de table at the hypermarché.

                2. re: zin1953

                  Arbois Vin Jaune still comes in a traditonal 62cl bottle - said to be what remains of a full liter after the required barrel time.

                  1. re: zin1953

                    One hesistates to disagree with the Zin man, but the Bordeaux bottles stamped 750ml and labelled as 730ml (although it was more likely then to be 75cl/73cl) did in fact contain 750ml.

                    Wines with labels that had 73cl on them were intended for export to the UK. UK consumer law stated that the amount shown on the container was the minimum and it was a serious offence to sell 'underweight'.* French (& EU) law allowed an average over a certain number of bottles. Thus the wine sold in France had labels showing 75cl and the same wine destined for a UK purchaser had a label stating 73cl to account for any shortfall. After the UK joined the EU and EU law took precedence then 75cl appeared on labels.

                    In the 60's and 70's wineries did start using small bottles and 70cl bottles were frequently seen (labelled as 68cl for UK). This was common marketing practice of reducing size of packaging to keep price down.

                    I find interesting the swfit move to using millilitres as the unit, eg, 750ml instead of 75cl and I have even seen 1000ml instead of 1L. Why? Does it make is seem as if there is more in the container??

                    1. re: Gussie Finknottle

                      Yes it makes it seem like there is more in the container. 1000ml > 1L for most people.

                      1. re: Gussie Finknottle

                        Hmmmm . . . this was not what we were told at the time by importers such as Segaram's Chateau and Estates or Austin Nichols, but it could very well be true.

                        1. re: zin1953

                          I'd have thought that if the wines were being bought by a US company direct from the Chateau for import to the US they'd have a label showing contents in US pints -- I have seen such labels in the past.

                          But Britain was such a major buyer of Bordeaux in the 60's/70's that maybe a UK company was involved in the deal somewhere along the line.

                          I visted Ch Batailley in the early 1970's and saw their range of labels each used for a specific market.

                          I think the story you were told regarding fill size and actual volume was the result probably a 'chinese whispers' version. You can imagine the people at the Chateau trying to explain it. I am absolutely certain my version is correct, it is something that puzzled me back in the 70s' and I looked into it then. Why was the wine I bought in France labelled at 75cl yet the same bottle in the UK 73cl. Sometimes there were stickers saying 73cl stuck on the label and when you peeled them off it said 75cl below.

                          Nowadays the 750ml will have a large stylised lower case 'e' next to it which indicates it is an EU approved side container. It doesn't guarantee that the bottle *contains* 750ml, only that it is capable of holding 75cl. Personally I prefer the English rule.

                          I don't know if the wine authorities have subsequently ever prosecuted a winery for underfilling.......

                          1. re: Gussie Finknottle

                            ATF ( a.k.a. TTB ) mandates "ml" designation on wine labels.

                            1. re: Gussie Finknottle

                              Most wineries don't "underfill", for wine quality reasons they would more likely "overfill" (to prevent too much air space between the cork and the wine). Even with modern manufacturing techniques, there is some slight variation in bottle size or more specifically, neck size (one reason that it is easier to use natural cork as a stopper, there is more tolerance for neck size variation).

                              However, the ATF (now the TTB) does prosecute wineries for overfilling because that cuts down on tax revenue.

                        2. re: zin1953

                          By the way, I found one of those 1976 ausleses that are 700 ml.

                          1. re: zin1953

                            Interestingly, although sakes are brewed and are not wines, full bottles are always 720 mil.

                          2. re: SteveTimko

                            My experience with most German wines pre-1975 or so is that they were in fact, 700 ml. I still have some empty bottles lying around, the latest 700 ml I can find is a 1975. I would not be surprised if someone wanted to use up their older bottles, so that's why you might have a 1976 700 ml bottle.

                            "One-fifth" was for a long time a default consistent bottle size, to the point where even today I and my father both talk about going to the liquor store "....for a fifth..."

                            Zin1953 is, as usual, well informed.

                          3. European bottle sizes, soon after glass manufacturing began, became semi-standardized at 700 - 800 ml, depending on the region. In 1979, the US mandated a 750 ml size bottle on all imports.

                            Lots of wine history books/websites have more info.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: maria lorraine

                              This too, is why most capsules are aluminum/tin based- when the US made that law on imports- the world followed suit, rather than lose the US market.

                              (Edited for clarity)