If you’ve ever had the good fortune of receiving a present in an unusually big box, you know that sometimes, good things do come in large packages. When it comes to a festive table, having a show-stopper piece gives that special touch that separates a nice gathering from a party and while food often gets the spotlight, when it comes to wine, why not think big? It’s time to get into magnums.
While your standard wine bottle holds 750 ml, a magnum doubles that, containing 1.5 litres of wine or about 8 to 10 glasses. The format is a step up on a ladder that leads to the imposing 15 litres Nebuchadnezzar, a glass beast that serves a hundred.
In between, you have a crescendo of bottles sizes that go from the double magnum (3 litres or 4 standard bottles), Jeroboam (4.5 litres or six bottles), imperial (6 litres or eight bottles), Salamanzar (9 litres or 12 bottles) and Balthazar (12 litres or 16 bottles). The fact that several of these formats are named after biblical kings might hint at their proportions.
Large format bottles such as magnums have an impact that go beyond the first impression. On one side, they better protect wine from its natural enemies, light and heat, and on the other hand, because more wine is packed inside the same container, there is less exposure to oxygen, which allows the wine to age more slowly.
This is particularly important when looking for older bottles as you’ll hardly notice a difference from a bottle a couple of vintages ago.
Big Things to Come
While Magnums are not precisely ubiquitous, we’re likely to see more of them in the near future. When you see Aldi launching a 3 littre bottle of Prosecco (a.k.a. Jeroboam), you know there’s mass appeal. In fact, according to trade publication, The Drinks Business, magnums are the number one consumer drink trend to watch out for in 2017.
A Bold Trick for BYOBers
While having a magnum gracing your home dinner party is great, sharing one on a night out is also very high on our cool list. One little tip we got from friends in the drinks trade is to bring a magnum to a BYOB venue as they often will charge one corkage, even though it’s the equivalent in volume to two bottles (it doesn’t hurt to check when booking though, just to be sure and out of courtesy!).
This also works out very well in places that combine wine shop and bar area, as they often charge a very reasonable corkage fee unlikely to change if you upsize. Green Man Wines in Terenure has an enviable selection of large bottles, and since we’re talking about lovely suburban wine shop/bar hybrids, Dalkey’s Grapevine and Whelehans Wine also stock several reasonably priced magnums which you can either take home or enjoy there.
And if you want to go big without going home, Piglet Wine Bar is a must-visit. They have a whole section dedicated to magnums in their recently updated menu, including a few available by the glass (when in doubt, ask them, they’ve a Coravin and they’re not afraid to use it!).
Next time you’re planing to buy two bottles of wine, consider getting a magnum instead. Below you’ll find a few suggestions…
Santa Caterina Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
€53.95 – Available at Little Italy
This intense wine is a fine example of Tuscany’s elegant side. It’s made from different expressions of Sangiovese grapes from the Santa Caterina Hill, vinified and then blended to bring the best of each to life.
Aromas of cranberries, ripe sour cherries, and blackberries combine with the pleasant floral character of violets and a subtle toastiness, the product of moderate use of oak. On the palate, it’s generous in flavours and gentle in tannin, it feels plump and juicy with a medium body.
€19.95 – Available at O’Briens Wine
This is one of the best value magnums we’ve seen in Ireland and the best part is, the wine is lovely. This cheerful Portuguese red is a blend of Tinta Roriz, Castelão and Touriga Nacional from the north of Lisbon.
Ripe cherries and juicy blackberries are the main characters in this fruity one, accompanied with a sprinkle of sweet spices courtesy of a brief kiss of oak. Low tannins and medium acidity team up to make it very easy to drink. Surely one for a thirsty Christmas crowd!
Bianco “Riva Arsiglia” 2011
€43.84 – Available at SYIPS.com (also available by the glass at Piglet Wine Bar)
This biodynamic Italian white wine is made from Garganega grapes, the same variety used in the popular Soave. Time has been kind to it, gracing it with a mellow nose of honey, nectarines, ripe lemons and green apples. On the palate, this combines with a contrasting minerality and a freshness often reserved for younger bottles.
It’s complex and perfumed, with a lovely balance and a citrusy finish. It will go really well with vegetarian dishes, white fish and shellfish.
Delas Frères Côtes du Rhône St Esprit
€35 – Available at Lilac Wines, Fairview; Fresh; The Gate, Lord Edward St; Egans Drogheda
This juicy Grenache and Syrah blend from Côtes du Rhône is a crowd pleaser at a very reasonable price that won’t alienate the connoisseurs in the room. Unoaked and fruity, it offers aromas and flavours of blackberries, plums, ripe cherries and a pinch of pepper.
Medium bodied and with moderate tannins, it’s a versatile treat that will be lovely along a cheese and charcuterie board, as well as rich turkey or duck dishes or lightly seasoned lamb.
Champagne Henriot Blanc de Blancs NV
€150 – Available at Searsons
What is a list of magnums for your party without a 1.5 litre bottle of Champagne? This refined Blanc de Blancs Champagne (meaning, made with 100% Chardonnay) remains ageing in the cellar for 3.5 years, achieving great complexity and flavour integration.
Electrifying bubbles transport aromas of brioche, toasted almonds and praline, balanced with a softer side of white floral charms, orange blossom and ripe citrus. One to toast in style!
Villa Jolanda Spumante Prosecco Magnum
€55 – Available at Wineonline.ie
This is one to highlight on the list for those on a quest to find good bubbles on a tighter budget.
This eye-catching bottle of spumante Prosecco (a style that is more bubbly than frizzante Prosecco) is fresh and peachy, with a light body and flavours of citrus and pear.
Ideal as an aperitif.
Gabriela’s passion for writing is only matched by her love for food and wine. Journalist, confectioner and sommelier, she fell in love with Ireland years ago and moved from Venezuela to Dublin in 2014.
Since then, she has written about and worked in the local food scene, and she’s determined to discover and share the different traditions, flavours and places that have led Irish food and drink to fascinate her.