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Guide: Number of Glasses of Wine in Different Sizes Carafes

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During my travels, I  have dined in many small restaurants and cafes where a lunchtime set menu often includes a carafe of house wine. This made me wonder how many glasses there were in a carafe of wine and whether all carafes of wine are the same wherever I go. I decided to go and find out.

A full carafe contains four large glasses of wine or 750 ml. There are two large glasses of wine in a half carafe and one glass in a split/piccolo. Bistros in France and Italy use smaller carafes containing three glasses (500 ml) in a full carafe and a half in a half (250 ml) carafe.

Let’s take a closer look at all the different carafe sizes so that you can clearly understand exactly how much wine you are being served when you order a carafe of wine in various restaurants, bistros, and cafes. 

How Many Glasses In A Carafe Of Wine
How Many Glasses In A Carafe Of Wine

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How Many Glasses In A Carafe Of Wine

Many people may believe that a carafe is a standard measurement of the volume measurement of wine. However, a carafe really refers to the vessel in which either wine, fruit juice or even coffee is served.

When it comes to the carafe that is used for serving wine, these vessels are available in a variety of different sizes to hold a variety of different volumes of wine.

A traditional full carafe holds 750 ml of wine, equivalent to a standard bottle of wine. You can pour five full large-sized glasses of wine from a standard bottle or five standard-sized glasses.

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Regarding carafe sizes, you also get a half carafe and a split/piccolo carafe of wine. These two sizes will hold Either 375 ml of wine or 187 ml of wine, respectively. The former of these holds two glasses of wine, while the latter holds one glass of wine.

If you order wine in a bistro in either France or Italy, a full carafe of wine will be 500 ml or a half liter, while a half carafe of wine will be half of that amount or 250 ml.

When looking at these measurements regarding glasses, a 500 ml carafe will hold approximately three glasses of wine, while the 250 ml carafe will hold approximately one and a half glasses. 

Wine Glasses Guide
Wine Glasses Guide

From what I’ve been able to ascertain after speaking to David Illsley of the Las Chimeneas Hotel and Restaurant, is the reason for using this type of measurement is that your 500 ml carafe is served to a table of two so that each diner will be able to have a glass of wine as a half glass top up.

The 250 ml carafe is used when serving to a single diner, in other words, a table of one. That single diner will have a full glass of wine plus a half-glass top-up.

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Is A Carafe Equal To A Bottle Of Wine?

A traditional full carafe of wine is designed to hold 750 ml, so a full bottle of wine. However, a full carafe can actually hold 916 ml when filled to its very brim. This is according to a wholesale bar supplies company that sells standard wine carafes within the Industry.

Most standard carafes are 750 ml or a full bottle of wine. You also get half carafes which will be 375 ml. However, as I mentioned earlier, in Italy and France, a full carafe is 500 ml, and a half graph is 250 ml.

If you go to a street cafe in Spain and order sangria, you will notice that the carafe used for Sangria measures 1 L in volume capacity. This does not mean that a 1 L carafe of sangria will be holding 1 L of wine.

That carafe of sangria will have ice cubes, slices of orange, and a certain amount of orange juice and soda water that will take up part of that 1 L of volume. Based on my experiences in Spain, I would estimate that in every 1 L carafe of sangria, there will only be approximately half a liter of wine.

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What Is The Standard Carafe Size?

What Is The Standard Carafe Size?
What Is The Standard Carafe Size?

In most countries, the standard carafe size is 750 ml or the equivalent of a full bottle of wine. If we look at a full bottle of wine in terms of glasses, you can pour four and a half glasses of wine from a bottle or standard-sized full carafe.

However, Bistros in France and Italy will use 500 ml as the standard size for a full carafe. A 500 ml holds three glasses of wine, so it is enough to give each of the two diners sitting at the table one full glass of wine and a half glass top-up.

When it comes to serving house wines by the carafe in France, a new piece of legislation was brought in in August of 2022.

This new law stipulates that even if a bistro in France is serving house wine in a carafe, the menu still has to stipulate the exact geographical area that the house wine comes from.

This law was brought in because many restaurants in France were importing house wine from Spain at a quarter of the price.

Because they were not required to disclose that they were serving cheaper Spanish wine, they could fool their customers into believing they were being served French wine with their meal at the bistro.

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How Many Glasses Of Wine Are In A 500ml Carafe?

Generally speaking, a 500 ml carafe will hold three glasses of wine. A 500 ml or three-glass carafe of wine is usually served to a table of two in a bistro in Italy and France. 

A 3-glass carafe is being served to a table of two because each of the two diners will be able to have a glass of wine, and the additional glass will be split between the two as the top-up to their respective glasses.

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At the time of writing, in both France and Italy, one and a half glasses of wine are still below the legal limit for driving in both of those countries.

However, If someone in either of those two countries had to consume half of a standard, one being a full bottle of wine, they would likely be above the legal limit of blood alcohol for driving. 

I can’t say for sure that this is why both of these countries have reduced the standard carafe from 750 ml down to 500 ml though it is a compelling argument.

A secondary reason could be that serving a 500 ml Carafe of wine will reduce the cost of wine volume and served to each table by 33%.

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A standard full-size carafe contains 750 ml of wine, the same amount as a full bottle of wine. This equates to between 4 and 5 glasses of wine, depending on the size of the wine glass. A standard half-sized carafe contains 375 ml of wine, while a split/piccolo carafe contains 187 ml of wine or a single glass.

There are a few notable exceptions to these sizes. In the bistros of France and Italy, a full-sized carafe measures 500 ml and contains three glasses of wine, while a half-sized carafe measures 250 ml and contains a glass and a half of wine. 

The tourist cafes of Spain use a 1 L carafe for serving Sangria, though in most cases, a liter of Sangria only contains 500 ml of wine.

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