Why Giant Wine Bottles Have Biblical Names Is A King-Sized Mystery

When it comes to the world of winemaking, decisions like the different sizes of wine bottles are made based on both years of tradition and modern science. Wine bottles are characterized according to a system of predetermined sizes measured in milliliters, the largest of which have names that are based on the Bible, ex-sommelier Mathew Woodburn-Simmonds of Decoding Wine explained to Mashed. 

When asked about the history of how these names were chosen, Woodburn-Simmonds told Mashed, "It started with the Jeroboam, 3-liter bottle, which may have come from the word 'jorum' meaning a large drinking vessel or bowl. This ended up as Jeroboam, and then the other large formats followed the pattern by picking other Biblical kings of Israel. No one really knows, and most of these formats aren't taken seriously."

In the Bible, Jeroboam is referenced as the first King of northern Israel, but he isn't the only Biblical king who went on to inspire the name of a wine bottle. Kings Rehoboam, Solomon, and Balthazar also spurred their own large bottle sizes. While no one knows exactly how these names came about, the first known account of the word "Jeroboam" being used to refer to a large wine bottle comes from 18th century France (via Cult Wine Investment). With most French citizens belonging to the Catholic Church at the time, the fact that winemakers would have chosen a biblical name for some of their most expensive bottles of wine makes historical sense. 

The name of wine bottle sizes may come down to poetry

Cult Wine Investment also suggests that the practice of naming wine bottles after famous kings of Israel may have been inspired by medieval poet Eugene Destuche, who was known for using the names of these biblical figures in his poems. 

The tradition of associating biblical names with wine could have also started due to the connection between wine and religious rituals, such as the Christian Eucharist. The fact that many wines were traditionally made in monasteries may also give this theory some weight. Winemakers may have used this connection in order to give their larger bottles of wine a feeling of importance and significance. 

While we may never know how this tradition started, historical wine-naming conventions have become an important part of modern winemaking and an interesting piece of trivia for wine enthusiasts. Sometimes having a deeper knowledge of the history of wine adds something special to the experience of drinking it.