Magnum P.I.—Solving The Mystery Of Large Format Bottles

by Paullette Gaudet
bottles1Ah, the holidays are upon us once again, bringing with them our yearly role as Holiday Party Guest #1, and including all attendant pleasures and responsibilities. The swirly fun of shopping for new party togs—and rehearsing new anecdotes!—is somewhat tempered by the requirements of party punctuality and, of course, keeping one’s re-gifting list straight. Speaking of which: keep those questionable dinner guest wine bottles—the liquid equivalent of fruitcake—out of circulation this year and stand out from the party-guest-pack by upgrading your gift wines to large format bottles.

These behemoths boast a range of out-sized, Biblically-named models—including the eight-bottle Methuselah and the twenty-bottle (!!) Nebuchadnezzar—but the two-bottle Magnum will be your best choice for holiday party purposes: it’s large enough to impress, while still being easy to carry and pour.

The Magnum’s size achieves more than just visual impact: larger bottles feature a lower ratio of liquid to air, allowing the wine to age more slowly, which lets it potentially develop more complex levels of flavor and aroma than wines aged in smaller bottles. This is particularly advantageous for the nuanced flavors that evolve during the aging of wines such as Bordeaux and Burgundy.

The price of a Magnum is normally quite a bit higher than two standard bottles of the same wine: this is due to the cost of materials, the smaller number of Magnums produced overall, and the aforementioned superiority in flavor of wines aged in these bottles. The exception is “value” wines (less than ten dollars a bottle), whose Magnum sizes are often much less than the doubled standard-size price.