Special announcement from San Francisco's Hotel Vintage Court:
Special rate to celebrate the harvest!

The only wine-themed hotel in San Francisco, Hotel Vintage Court, currently offers a special rate to celebrate grape harvest season. "Develop a Crush ... on us" is $109 from now through Dec. 15, 2002. Call (800) 654-1100 to book your room, or visit the Hotel Vintage Court Website,

Enjoy the nightly wine hour, when the hotel offers tastes of California wines and often invites partner wineries in to pour. With this terrific rate you'll be saying "cheers!" long before you raise your glass.

30 Second Wine Advisor: This week's sponsors

Don't Wait! Avoid the holiday rush with California Wine Club!
Wine Advisor readers: Get your free 101 WINE TIPS book!

Hotel Vintage Court, San Francisco:
Special rate to celebrate the harvest!


In This Issue

Bottles of size
E. Guigal 2000 Crozes-Hermitage ($15.99)
Wine Lovers' Voting Booth: What wines don't you "get"?
Don't Wait! Avoid the holiday rush with California Wine Club!
Wine Advisor readers: Get your free 101 WINE TIPS book!

Special announcement from San Francisco's Hotel Vintage Court:
Special rate to celebrate the harvest!

Last Week's Wine Advisor Index

Bottles of size

As autumn progresses and the holiday nears, I'm starting to get the annual flurry of questions about celebratory wines in oversize bottles. So I hope you'll indulge a "rerun" today as I update my last report on this topic from November 1999.

Although wine goes back at least 5,000 years to Bronze Age times, the wine bottle as we know it today is only a little over 300 years old. It was only in the late 1600s that improving glass technology made feasible a consistently shaped, cylindrical glass bottle that could be stacked on its side to facilitate shipment, storage and cellaring.

The "fifth" bottle, originally one-fifth of a gallon in English-speaking nations but now rounded off metrically to 750 ml., was allegedly chosen as the standard size in times past because it was considered a suitable ration for one (although it's worth noting that most wine was quite low in alcoholic strength in those days). Another theory holds that this size bottle was actually the largest that early glass-blowers could produce with one full breath.

But even in older times, wines for special occasions were occasionally put up in impressive, oversize bottles. For reasons lost to history, man of these bottles were given the names of Biblical figures like the evil king Nebuchadnezzar and the long-lived Methuselah.

The naming conventions varied somewhat among wine regions, with the two standards being Champagne and Bordeaux in France. In case you run into a big bottle, here's a quick field guide to the larger sizes:

Magnum: 1.5 liters (two bottles)
Jeroboam: 3 liters (four bottles)
Rehoboam: 4.5 liters (six bottles)
Methuselah: 6 liters (eight bottles)
Salmanazar: 9 liters (12 bottles)
Balthazar: 12 liters (16 bottles)
Nebuchadnezzar: 15 liters (20 bottles)

Even larger sizes are occasionally seen, although they are very rare:

Solomon: 20 liters (28 bottles)
Primat: 27 liters (36 bottles)

Magnum: 1.5 liters (two bottles)
Marie-Jeanne: 2.25 liters (three bottles)
Double Magnum: 3 liters (four bottles)
Jeroboam: 4.5 liters (six bottles) *
Imperiale: 6 liters (eight bottles)

* Because of recent U.S. regulations limiting larger bottles to even liter sizes, some modern red-wine "Jeroboams" are now 5 liters rather than the traditional 4.5.

E. Guigal E. Guigal 2000 Crozes-Hermitage ($15.99)

One of the "benchmark" wines featured this month in our Wine Tasting 101 Forum, Crozes-Hermitage comes from a chain of villages that border on the storied Hermitage hill in the Northern Rhone. Although it's usually considered a "lesser" wine than Hermitage, it offers more than a glimpse of Hermitage's glory for a fraction of the price, and it provides a distinctive example of the dark fruit and fragrant black pepper that are the typical characteristics of Syrah.

Very dark garnet, almost black; clear reddish-purple at the edge. Plum and pepper aromas, rather closed at first, but opens up and adds more complex notes of tarragon and leather with swirling and time in the glass. Lots of flavor: Black, plummy fruit and spice with plenty of acidity and underlying tannins. Will gain complexity with time, but drinking well now. U.S. importer: Ex-Cellars Wine Agencies Inc., Solvang, Calif. (Oct. 5, 2002)

FOOD MATCH: An excellent match with the marinated, pan-grilled lamb steak (tranche de gigot) featured in last week's Wine Advisor FoodLetter.

VALUE: Reasonably priced in the $15 range.

WEB LINKS: E. Guigal's home page is at
http://www.guigal.com/; click the national flag for your choice of French or English.

To participate in Wine Tasting 101 and join other wine lovers learning wine-notes reporting by practicing with this and other Syrahs, click to

Wine Lovers' Voting Booth: What wines don't you "get"?

If you didn't catch the pointer to the latest Wine Lovers' Voting Booth in Friday's edition, you're still welcome to participate. This week's informal poll invites you to name the wines that win enthusiastic support from other wine enthusiasts but that simply don't charm you, as we ask, "What wines don't you 'get'?"

I hope you'll take a moment to drop by the Voting Booth,
and add your opinions to the list.

Don't Wait! Avoid the holiday rush with California Wine Club!

This holiday season, give a California wine adventure! With The California Wine Club, your gift recipient will receive two bottles of award-winning wine, hand-selected from California's best boutique wineries. Just $32.95/month plus shipping and includes a fun and informative 8-page newsletter, Uncorked. Send as many months as you wish!

Place your holiday gift order before Nov. 1 and you'll receive no billing and no shipping until Dec. 1, 2002.

SPECIAL OFFER FOR WINE ADVISOR READERS! Mention the 30 Second Wine Advisor and they'll include a free copy of the handy book, 101 ESSENTIAL WINE TIPS. Also, be sure to ask about their specially discounted prices on gifts of 3, 6, 9 and 12 months.

Call (800) 777-4443 or visit

Available in the U.S. wherever wine shipping is permitted by law.

Last Week's Wine Advisor Index

The Wine Advisor's daily edition is currently distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:

Cleansing the palate (Oct. 11)

A Swiss rarity (Oct. 9)

Duty to be red? (Oct. 7)

Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:

Last week's Wine Advisor Foodletter: Tranche de gigot (Oct. 10)

Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:


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All the wine-tasting reports posted here are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores and accept no samples, gifts or other gratuities from the wine industry.

Monday, Oct. 14, 2002
Copyright 2002 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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