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It has always struck me as unusual that standard wine bottles are all 750ml. Even for the metric system that number seems unusual. If we look at wine bottles in fluid ounces, then 25.36oz makes even less sense to me. So I decided to investigate why such a strange number was chosen as the standard volume of a wine bottle.
Wine bottles are 750ml because that was the lung capacity of the majority of glass blowers before making glass bottles became mechanized. The measurement was standardized by European legislation in 1975 to make it easier to calculate wine volume for tax purposes.
Let’s take a closer look at why wine bottles are 750ml and how that became the official standard measurement for wine.
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Why Is A Wine Bottle 750ml
Wine bottles weren’t always 750ml, or even standardized sizes. The limiting factor at the time was the long capacity of artisan glassblowers. This created variations in bottle sizes as the lung capacity of glassblowers ranged between 600ml and 800ml.
The trouble with having wine bottles of varying sizes is that it was difficult to calculate exactly how much wine was being produced and bottled by a winery.
This was a major problem for tax collectors as they couldn’t calculate the exact volume of wine in order to work out the amount of duty that the winery had to pay.
This changed in 1975 when European legislation standardized the wine bottle size at 750ml. The standardized size meant that it was easier to collect the full amount of tax due after the wine had been bottled.
That still doesn’t help me know why 750ml was chosen when the European legislation was passed. I asked Pau Gomez, the winemaker/owner of Bodega Mil300 for his input.
According to Pau, at the time of the legislation in 1975, a sample of wine bottles was measured and most were near 750ml. Again, at the time wine bottle sizes were limited to what glass blowers could create from a single breath.
At the time the legislation was passed, the wine industry chose not to challenge the sizing because it would be massively expensive to do so and achieve very little.
The legislation was going to standardize the bottle size and the only part that could get challenged in the courts was whether the standard should be 750ml or a different amount.
Pau also mentioned that there was a theory rumored at the time that part of the reason for selecting 750ml, or 75cl, was that the legislation was passed in 1975 though this has never been substantiated.
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Why Are Most Wine Bottles 750ml And Why Do They Contain A Punt?
Wine bottles were standardized to 750ml by European legislation that was passed in 1975. This was done in order to measure the volume of wine produced each year so that the taxes could be calculated.
The reason that 750ml was chosen was most likely that the majority of wine bottles produced at that time were very close to 750ml in volume.
Before glass bottle production became mechanized, wine bottles were made by artisan glass blowers, and therefore the size of the bottle was limited to the lung capacity of the glass blowers.
Although there were a few glass blowers who had big enough lungs to blow an 800ml bottle, the 750ml size was achievable by the vast majority of glass blowers.
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The origin of the punt at the bottom of a wine bottle also dates back to when wine bottles were hand-blown. When a lump of molten glass was removed from the furnace a pontil rod would be attached to the glass at the opposite end to the blowpipe. This allows the blowpipe and pontil rod to be rolled, thereby shaping the bottle uniformly once blown.
The pontil rod is removed by cutting it from the base of the bottle. This would leave a lump of glass protruding from the base of the bottle, making it unstable.
Using the pontil rod to push a punt into the base of the bottle before it was removed solved the problem as the lump of glass would be inside the punt.
When the production of glass bottles became mechanized, the punt was retained for wine bottles.
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Why Is 750 ml The Standard Size?
During the time when wine bottles were handmade by artisan glass blowers, the volume of a wine bottle was limited by the lung capacity of the glass blower. Although a few glass blowers can blow a bottle as large as 800ml, the average lung capacity of a glass blower was 750ml.
Standardizing wine bottle sizes was important in order for countries to collect the correct taxes on the wine produced each year.
When the production of wine bottles became mechanized, the 750ml standard size was maintained so that it would be equal to what glass blowers could produce.
Why Is 750ml Of Alcohol Called A Fifth?
The reason why 750ml of alcohol is called a fifth is because 750ml is a fifth of a gallon. However, I have only seen the term fifth used when referencing 750ml spirit bottles as opposed to wine.
This might be because 750ml is the standard measure for wine and hence will be called a bottle of wine.
Why Are European Bottles 700ml?
The reason why Europe uses 700ml bottles for liquor is because of tax. Three decades ago legislation was introduced in Europe that effectively forced all distilleries within the European Union to only bottle their liquor in 700ml bottles.
This was done so that it would be easy to see which liquor had been bottled within the European Union and which liquor had been imported from outside of the European Union.
The taxes/duties on liquor in the European Union are incredibly high. By making the standardized bottle for liquor within the European Union 700ml it would be easy for the tax agents to see at a glance which liquor had been bottled within the European Union and which had been imported from outside the European Union.
If the liquor was being transported across a border within the European Union and it was a 700ml bottle, the agents would know that that specific liquor had already been taxed within the European Union and therefore would not be subject to any import duties.
If the liquor being transported across a border in European Union was in 750ml bottles then the tax agents would know that no duties had been paid in any other European Union country and therefore that specific liquor could be subject to import duties when crossing the border.
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However, more recently the European Union amended the legislation and made it once again infinitely more difficult to be able to ascertain which liquor was likely produced in the EU and which liquor was imported from outside the European Union.
The way this was done was by making it mandatory for any liquor producer elsewhere in the world to bottle their liquor in 700ml bottles if they wanted to export their liquor to the European Union.
By doing this it meant that all imported liquor was once again in the same size bottles as locally produced liquor and thereby making it impossible for tax agents to tell the difference at a glance.
Because 750ml bottles are still the standard size for bottling liquor in the United States, any US distilleries wanting to export to the European market will need to be set up to bottle both in the 700ml size as well as the 750ml size for the US market.
One way that this was done successfully was by designing bottles in such a way that both sizes could run through the same piece of machinery without costly alterations.
For instance, the relatively popular Wildly Crafted Primal Bottle for spirits achieved this by having both the 700ml bottle and the 750ml bottle measuring exactly the same height of 233.6 mm. The bottles were identical at the shoulder, neck, and closure system.
The only difference between the two was that the 700ml bottle tapers slightly more down towards a base of 70.6mm, while the 750ml bottle has a broader base at 73.3mm.
This small difference means that the two bottles are virtually identical, one just tapers slightly more down to its base and both bottles can be run through the identical bottling machine without needing to reset the machine for different size bottles.
Are 700ml Legal In The US?
There was a time when 700ml bottles were not permitted to be sold in retail establishments within the US.
However, this has changed and 700ml bottles are now permitted to be sold within the United States making it far easier for certain distilleries to use the same bottle size when bottling their liquor for both the US market and the EU market.
What Is A 700ml Bottle Called?
The official term for the 700ml bottle is “Standard Bottle EU” while the 750ml bottle is called the “Standard Bottle US” when it is used for holding liquor.
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There was a time when wine bottles were not a standardized size. Glass bottles were hand blown and the size of the bottle was limited by the lung capacity of the glass blower.
It just so happened that the lung capacity of most glass blowers was close to 750ml. Therefore when Europe passed legislation in 1975 to standardize wine bottle size, for tax purposes, the 750ml measurement was retained.
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