Sunday, May 16, 2010

Crazy Names for Bottles of Wine







Adapted from Michael Quinion, World Wide Words

You may have heard those odd names for big bottles of wine such as Magnum, Jeroboam, Rehoboam, and Methuselah.

What do they mean and where do they come from? How long does wine have to age for it to be called a Methuselah?

I'm glad to be able to report that the age of the wine has no connection with these curious names, otherwise a methuselah would have age for 969 years.

Those crazy names refer to the sizes of the bottle, but it's now illegal to put any of them except one on a bottle and they've become curiosities that mainly come up in pub quizzes.

The only term of the set that's still allowed is "magnum", which refers to a bottle containing two standard bottles or 1.5 litres. It's also the oldest of all the terms, having appeared in English in one of the prose works of the Scots poet Robert Burns, back in 1788.

It's an abbreviation of Latin "magnum bonum", a large good thing. It was in Scotland that it acquired the sense of a size of wine bottle and became abbreviated to "magnum". It has also been given to a variety of potato, various varieties of cooking plums, a gun, and even a large-barrelled steel pen.

The remainder of the set, as usually quoted in reference books, are jeroboam (4 bottles/3 litres), rehoboam (6/4.5), methuselah (8/6), salmanazar (12/9), balthazar (16/12), nebuchadnezzar (20/15), melchior (24/18), solomon (28/21), sovereign (33.3/25), and primat (36/27).

Some lists even include a melchizedek, holding 40 standard bottles or 30 litres.

For more, go to Moore Partners Scribbles


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