When you think of Grand Prix race drivers spraying each other with Champagne you think of large format bottles, and a magnum…the equivalent of two normal 750mL bottles…is usually the vessel of choice.
So, is there a reason for magnums other than the myth that size matters?
Our favourite Pinot Noir winemaker, Dalrymple Vineyards’ Peter Caldwell explains why…
It is generally accepted that wine stored in a magnum ages better.
This stemmed from the recent past when many wineries bottled wines under cork, and it was believed that a larger volume of wine, like a magnum, stored under the same cork area as a 750ml bottle slowed down the process of maturation.
Even though many wines are now bottled under screw caps, the larger bottle size means that wines in magnum mature at roughly half the rate of a regular bottle – which means the same vintage looks younger and more youthful under a magnum bottle.
When it comes to Pinot Noir, protecting against rapid ageing is even more important, because you want to preserve the fresher aromatics, and the vibrancy of the wine. If you can always try to purchase a magnum or two, the wait will be worth it.
The best of the best
Due to their cost, most wineries only produce a small number of magnums. These large, expensive bottles are often used to capture an interesting or noteworthy vintage or special single vineyard release.
So magnums are typically filled with the best of the best, a trophy type bottle that reflects uniqueness and collectability.
Magnums are also celebration bottles, ideal to share amongst a large group when you want everyone to enjoy exactly the same wine.
Because Pinot Noir in magnums store better over longer periods of time, and mature more slowly and gracefully, everyone will get the benefit of this precise ageing.
Better to travel with
Magnums are more durable than 750 mL bottles and therefore make great travelling companions – especially if you’re doing a cellar door tour.
They are made with thicker, heavier glass so there is less likelihood of a breakage and the better insulation protects from heat and light.
Plus you’re less likely to “crack” one that evening at the local restaurant and stop five years of potential bottle maturation in its tracks!
However, be warned – you may need to spend a little time at the gym if you’re planning to lug magnums around on a long term basis.
All about the occasion
A magnum isn’t something you’d normally whip out on a Friday night dinner for two with a ham and pineapple pizza – you should share it and enjoy it with a group, which makes it all about the occasion.
Magnums are for anniversaries and reunions, special birthdays, Christmas lunch, New Year’s Eve or a long awaited lunch with mates – the type of event when you have a table full of joyous wine lovers all eager to raise a glass.
If you want everyone to receive a consistent expression of that particular wine and make a “wow” statement, choose a magnum.
Rare & exclusive
From a retail point of view, it’s very difficult for bottle shops to store magnums. These bigger, heavier bottles don’t fit onto standard shelves very well and are a higher cost outlay for retailers.
At Dalrymple Vineyards we don’t bottle magnums every year – it depends on the season, the resultant quality of the vintage and of course quantity.
Due to this, a magnum of Dalrymple Vineyards Pinot Noir is a rare find and often only available by direct sale. If you have an opportunity to get your hands on one, do it – it’s special.