Happy National Wine Day! When you head out to pick up a bottle in honor of the occasion, you might be tempted to go big—really big. And those big bottles have some interesting monikers. Beyond Magnum—which is equivalent to two 750-milliliter bottles—most wine bottles are named after biblical characters and kings. Some sources say that their names were originally supposed to suggest that, like the people they’re named after, the wines have great worth. Not all of these men were wealthy, but they do have interesting stories.
1. JEROBOAM // 3 Liters
Jeroboam was the first king of the northern kingdom of Israel, after they split off from the rest of the kingdom following the death of Solomon. His name is often said to mean "may the people grow numerous," and he was a pagan who encouraged people to worship golden calves he had placed in the towns of Bethel and Dan rather than go to Jerusalem to worship. Because of this, he is known as the man who "made Israel to sin."
Bottles of this size are reserved for still wines and are sometimes called Double Magnums, because they're big enough to contain enough wine to fill four standard 750 milliliter bottles.
2. REHOBOAM // 4.5 Liters
Rehoboam was a son of Solomon who succeeded his father as king of Israel. Some advisers told him to be a good leader and take his people's thoughts into account. But Rehoboam chose to listen to younger advisors he had grown up with, and required more taxes and tributes from the citizens of his kingdom. He was wealthy, but his people were angry, which led to rebellions and the northern kingdom's split.
It's important to note that Rehoboam bottles are bottles of sparkling wines; red wines of this size are known as Jeroboams. On top of that, regulations in the United States dictate that bottles this big must be whole-liter sized, so Jeroboams of red wine may be 5 liters instead of 4.5.
3. METHUSELAH // 6 liters
The connection here is easy: Methuselah was the oldest man in the Bible, living to be 969. It's possible that whoever named this bottle of wine knew that a bottle this big would take a long time to age.
When used to hold Bordeaux, this bottle size is known as Imperial.
4. SALMANAZAR // 9 Liters
Salmanazar V (or, depending on what you're reading, Shalmaneser) was an Assyrian king. In the Bible, he was known for his role in the last conquest of Israel. He deported many Israelites from the land, including the Ten Lost Tribes.
5. BALTHAZAR or BELSHAZZAR // 12 Liters
There are two possibilities for this one. Balthazar (also spelled Balthasar) was one of the Three Wise Men who delivered gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to Jesus when he was born. While the wine bottle could be named after that Balthazar, it seems more likely that it is named for Belshazzar, a Babylonian king.
In the book of Daniel, Belshazzar held a feast while his city was under siege (in his defense, the Babylonian people believed that it wasn't possible to breach the walls of their city). Belshazzar was a fan of wine, and he had the vessels brought from the temple of Jerusalem so that he and all his guests could drink from them. This upset God, who then produced the infamous writing on the wall that predicted the downfall of Babylon. The city fell that night, and Belshazzar was killed in the struggle.
6. NEBUCHADNEZZAR // 15 liters
Historically, Nebuchadnezzar is credited with the construction of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon as well as with the destruction of Solomon's Temple. Biblically, he is known for dreaming about his own downfall along with temporarily losing his sanity after bragging too much.
A bottle of this size would hold enough liquid to fill 20 standard bottles of wine.
7. MELCHIOR // 18 liters
Bottles of this size are quite rare. They're named for another one of the Three Wise Men, who might have been the magi to give the baby Jesus gold. No word on why Gaspar, the third wise man, did not get a bottle named after him.
8. SOLOMON // 18 or 20 liters
The size of this bottle is debated. Some sources give it as 18 liters, but others say it is 20 liters. It's agreed by everyone, however, that this size is reserved for champagne. Solomon was the king of Israel as well as the son of David. He is a prophet in both the Talmud and the Quran. He built the temple in Jerusalem, and was known for running his prosperous kingdom well.
9. SOVEREIGN // BETWEEN 25 AND 26.25 LITERS
Bottles this size and bigger are generally reserved for decoration, but Sovereign might be an exception. Reportedly, this 3-foot-tall bottle was created by Tattinger, a French wine family, for the launch of the Sovereign of the Seas in 1988. According to a 1987 story in The New York Times, "The sovereign joins a class of oversize bottles introduced in France at the turn of the century during the belle epoque." At the time, the ship was the biggest cruise liner in the world
10. PRIMAT or GOLIATH // 27 Liters
This type of bottle is exceptionally rare. In most cases, it's referred to as Primat, but occasionally a company or individual will refer to it as Goliath. Even if you don't use it as a name, goliath is still a fitting adjective; the bottles hold a whopping 36 standard bottles of wine.
Goliath, of course, refers to the giant Philistine warrior that a young David had to face in the famous story from the Bible. David defeats the giant with a single stone (and then cuts off his head). Primat probably derives from the Latin for "first."
11. MELCHIZEDEK or MIDAS // 30 Liters
As the king of all wine bottles, this size has rightfully earned its name. These bottles can be hard to find—mostly because very few will put the money towards producing a bottle of wine they probably won't be able to sell.
Melchizedek was a priest and the king of Salem in the Bible. His name means "my king is righteous." He is found in many religious texts under many contexts—many see him as leading a perfect life, and some even see him as an extension of the Holy Spirit or Jesus himself.
Midas is the name of many kings throughout history, but the specific one in question is probably the King Midas of Greek mythology. The story goes that the greedy king, when granted one wish, asked that he have the power of turning anything he touches into gold. That went about as well as you can expect a Greek myth to go; Midas eventually ended up turning his daughter into gold.