See Fareham Wine Cellar’s selection of large format wine bottles.
Over the Christmas period a customer asked my why wineries bother to bottle wines in large format wine bottles such as a Double Magnum or Magnum. I didn’t really have an immediate answer for him at the time but there are few reasons.
This is the main argument for the bottling of larger formats of wine bottles: Magnums of wine are said to be the optimum size of wine bottle for ageing wine. The air to wine ratio (amount of air in the bottle to volume of wine in the bottle) is supposed to be just about perfect to allow the wine to gently and slowly age to maturity when compared with smaller bottles. Large format bottles of Bordeaux are often favoured by Bordeaux collectors for this reason. Conversely, if you think about it, the ratio of air to wine in a small half-bottle is quite high and therefore wines in half bottles tend to age more quickly. Therefore half bottles are not the best size for maturing wine for long periods of time.
Ease of Service with Large Format Wine Bottles
I have heard people say that it is easier serving wines at a dinner party or function in Magnum or Double Magnum. This could be true. It is certainly sometimes desirable to let everyone drink from the same bottle so that it is a properly shared experience. However, anything larger than a Double Magnum can be quite tricky to serve, the bottles are quite cumbersome and difficult to handle – it might become a two man job just to pour a bottle. This may not be such a problem if you have a ready supply of wine waiters. Indeed I once was at a birthday party where a Nebuchadnezzar of Champagne (15 litres or 20 standard bottles of wine) was served and it took three men to pour it!
Lots of Champagne is sold in large format bottles and I think this can be put down to the fact that they are impressive and make a certain statement but, don’t forget, you are going to need a pretty big space in your fridge or a dustbin to serve as an ice bucket to chill the Champagne down. They are also not the easiest of things to open. Unlike red wines that are usually bottled at time of vintage, large formats of Champagne are quite often filled from standard bottles just prior to shipping and sale.
Champagne Armand de Brignac, which is made by Champagne Cattier, produce their famous their Ace of Spades Champagne in a range of large format bottles and now produce one in a rather massive Champagne bottle that contains 40 Litres and is known as a Midas!
As well as the Midas there seems to be some other recent additions to large format Champagne bottles with the production of the Solomon, Sovereign and the Primat or Goliath with sizes of 25L, 27L and 30L.
Below you will find the names for different large format wine bottles. Please note that the naming system differs between Bordeaux and Burgundy / Champagne. Thus a 3 Litre wine bottle is a Double Magnum in Bordeaux and a Jeroboam in Champagne and Burgundy and a Jeroboam in Bordeaux is 4.5L – quite confusing really.
This is not an exhaustive list and there are other sizes of wine bottle available. For example, 50cl (half litre) bottles are common in Hungary for Tokay and you can see this size bottle for wine from regions such as Port and Madeira. Half bottles (37.cl) are quite common for dessert wines but you also get many dessert wines in 50cl bottles and sometimes even 20cl bottles.
Basically, this seems to be down to increased production and packaging costs etc. Everything has to be done by hand. I don’t think there are bottling lines for wines above Magnum size. So, if you can imagine, the bottles have to be filled, labelled and corked, sealed and packed by hand, which makes the job quite time consuming. Double Magnum wine bottles do not have a standard size cork either and finding the an appropriate corkscrew can be problematic. Plus the larger bottles themselves are more expensive to buy. These are the reasons I have always been given anyway!