In all three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), Jesus declares (in the traditional language of the King James Version): “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” Such sentiments may (or may not) be on the mind of today’s “extreme spenders,” the super-rich who are doing all they can to put into action these (seemingly) wise words of a New York City event planner quoted in The New York Times: “When times get tough, the smart spend money.” And how!
In addition to yachts, penthouses and luxury cars, “they want,” in the words of a Manhattan bar owner (also from The New York Times), “their Jeroboam, or Methuselah, or Nebuchadnezzar.” Does this portend a substantial increase in sales for leather-bound custom editions of the Bible? Alas, that is hardly the case: In this instance Jeroboam, Methuselah and Nebuchadnezzar, along with Rehoboam and Melchizedek, among others, are the names of super-sized bottles of champagne (the Jeroboam equals a “mere” four standard bottles of the liquid, whereas the Melchizedek weighs in at 30 liters, equivalent to 40 bottles of bubbly). These designations appear to go back at least 200 years. This may be a lot to drink in, or it may drive you to drink! But before you do so, consider the cost!
In a widely reported story from mid-summer 2007, an “anonymous client, believed to be a Middle Eastern businessman,” spent approximately $240,000 one Saturday night (extending well into Sunday morning) at “the newly-opened Crystal nightclub in Marylebone [London], fronted by Prince William’s friend Jacobi Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe” (the total amount in pounds sterling was pinpointed by The Express at 105,805.28). “Their drinking spree included two Jeroboams—each equivalent to four bottles—of Cristal champagne totaling £9,600 plus a Methuselah—equivalent to eight bottles—of Cristal priced at £30,000.”
Lest readers (and/or drinkers) think that there are no redeeming features of this battle for the bottle, we point to the thoroughly edifying and satisfying story of Keith Burnett, a resident of Middlesbrough. Watching a television show that runs “from midnight until the early hours,” he won 130,732 pounds by answering, in less than 30 seconds, “a question about which champagne size is bigger, a magnum or Jeroboam.” He knew that a magnum was only half the size of a Jeroboam. Further displaying his wisdom, Mr. Burnett chose to use his winnings to buy his flat rather than, say, investing in a couple of Nebuchadnezzars.
Despite my characteristically intrepid research (both on- and off-site), I was not able to determine exactly why each of these large bottle sizes became associated with a particular Biblical personage. Well, it’s true that Jeroboam caused many a headache for the House of David and its supporters. And more than one of Nebuchadnezzar’s enemies ended up with a hangover. And, yes, we can see how the long life of Methuselah provides something of a parallel for the wide expanse of the bottle named for him. But perhaps there is more (or less) than that to this “Biblicizing” of the bottle.
Come to think of it, when it comes to “wine, women and song,” the Biblical character who most vividly comes to mind (or at least to my mind!) is Solomon. It happens that there is a champagne bottle named for him (though rarely mentioned in any news accounts); containing the equivalent of 28 standard bottles, it stands (or falls) midway between a Nebuchadnezzar and a Melchizedek. By the way, how did this rather mysterious figure end up as the eponymous bestower of the largest amount of champagne? In champagne, as in theology, I suppose, there are some questions that defy easy responses. Or, as “David’s son” may have said (but probably didn’t), “Of making many vintages there is no end.”
In all three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), Jesus declares (in the traditional language of the King James Version): “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” Such sentiments may (or may not) be on the mind of today’s “extreme spenders,” the super-rich who are doing all they can to put into action these (seemingly) wise words of a New York City event planner quoted in The New York Times: “When times get tough, the smart spend money.” And how! […]
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