1. They are perfect for dinner parties. They contain about 12 glasses of wine and come with that wow factor, as in, ‘you must really know your wine to have the confidence to splash out on a magnum’, or ‘you obviously have enough room in your cellar to accommodate magnum size bottles or, better still, you obviously store your wine in a professional wine storage facility!’ (Yes, I know, a shameless plug!)
2. Experts agree that they are the best format for ageing wines. This has do with the fact that the proportion of wine to air in a magnum is greater than in a regular 750 ml bottle and consequently the wine develops more slowly. Jamie Goode of the Wine Anorak goes so far as to say: “From many discussions with collectors and experts, I’m convinced that the optimal ageing trajectory for top wines is achieved with a combination of a sound cork, a magnum bottle, and horizontal storage at a constant 11 ºC at high humidity. The wineanorak guide to storing wine at home, wineanorak.com)
3. Typically, wine producers only bottle their top drops in magnums, and are inclined to give the bottling another level of oomph by going all out in terms of presentation. Today, for example, I received an email from Clonakilla. They have just released magnums of their flagship Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier 2010. Each magnum comes packed in a pine box imprinted with the Clonakilla logo and vintage year!
I’ve often wondered why magnums aren’t more popular. The Wall Street Journal’s Lettie Teague pondered this question in a wonderfully titled article, Magnum Force: Big Bottles for Big Bashes. Here’s a few of her interesting insights:
- Women, in general, don’t buy magnums. Contrary to popular belief, women are actually big wine buyers, so the fact that they shy away from magnums can have a big influence on a wine store’s decision to stock them.
- Ditto for restaurants apparently. In the States, at least, a lot of sommeliers are afraid of magnums: “You have to have a real bravado to sell a magnum,” wine director Andrew Green of Spruce restaurant in San Francisco told Teague.
- Wine merchants don’t always have sufficient shelving space to stock magnums, and distributors don’t usually include them in their catalogues. Often you need to buy direct from the winery or look at the online secondary market to find magnums.
- Most magnum buyers are collectors, which makes perfect sense given that wineries usually reserve only their top wines for magnums as the format will most likely show the wine at its best in the years to come.
So, if you’re serious about building a cellar of age-worthy wines, or if you just want to serve great wine at a dinner party and also impress your friends, don’t overlook the value of investing in a magnum!