Bottle Size Matters - Large Format Wines
Want to know one of the best ways to be the hero of your party? Bring the biggest bottle of wine! Magnums and other large format bottles feel fun and indulgent and are great to enjoy with friends and family. A magnum (mag for short) is essentially a double bottle, holding 1.5 liters, or about ten glasses of wine. It’s the perfect amount of wine for a double date, or night in with close friends. Beyond that, there’s another important reason to buy magnums that you might not know about. If you can have the patience, mags are a great choice for cellar aging.
Wine changes and develops inside the bottle over time, and the biggest driver of wine development is oxygen. Age-worthy wines can start out quite tight and closed, not showing much flavor at all. As they’re exposed to tiny amounts of oxygen, they open up and become fruity and bright. Over years, these wines may continue to develop into softer, more savory, mature wines, and eventually turn old, tired, and past their prime. How long this process takes for any given wine depends on storage conditions, the rate oxygen moves through the closure, and the volume of wine in the bottle.
The great thing about magnums is that they have twice as much wine being exposed to the same amount of oxygen as a standard bottle. This makes the wine transform more slowly, around ½ to ⅔ the rate. The wine will last longer, and maybe develop even more complexity than the standard bottle. Consider this (simplified) example.
When you find a great wine, one that is made to age elegantly, you may want to buy several standard bottles and several mags. Then, hide them from yourself and wait.
After one year, the wines will both be very young, having been exposed little oxygen since bottling.
After four years, the standard bottle may likely be showing some development, but the magnum will still be quite youthful.
After eight years, the standard bottle could be fully developed, showing depth and maturity. The magnum will be on the same path, but will be a degree fresher.
After twelve years, the standard bottle may well taste old and tired, but the magnum will still taste great. It’s a fantastic way to turn back the clock, and enjoy the same wine as it was years ago.
While some people can buy a full case of twelve standard bottles and a full case of six magnums, you don’t have to invest so much to try it out. Start with a couple standard bottles and a magnum, and enjoy them over the course of years. When you do decide to crack the mag, you’ll be pleased to taste how lively it is, even as standard fades away.
Next time you find a special wine that you know you’ll want to drink down the road, consider investing in a large format bottle. Your foresight and patience will pay off!