When it comes to wine bottles, size matters. Often associated with history and enjoyed by kings and presidents, today large-format bottles are enjoying a renewed popularity. A magnum of rosé or Champagne is an excellent summer party showstopper, even if your social gathering is small and distant. Meanwhile, I’m dreaming of that double magnum of Meyer Family Pinot Noir that lived on the top shelf of my favorite wine shop, hoping to enjoy it with a cedar-planked salmon back-deck BBQ on my July long weekend birthday.
Wine regions from Champagne to California to Canada offer wine in large format, but the best-known are Bordeaux and Burgundy, with their complex reds. For collectors, larger bottle sizes allow wine to age more slowly and consistently under cork. It is this slow micro-breathing of the cork that allows the exchange between the interior life of the bottle and the world outside to produce the desired soft, supple yet fresh and lively character of the maturing wine.
For most of us however, a large-format bottle is a question of party size and showstopper appeal. Champagne bottle size has less importance than does the date of disgorgement (which appears on the front or back label), and for rosé, a magnum is simply stellar presentation. And even though there is no bottle price advantage to buying larger or smaller format, it’s still fun to upsize.
Many large-format bottles are named for biblical characters—Jeroboam, for instance, means “First King of The Kingdom,” while Nebuchadnezzar was the “King of Babylon.” Here’s what that means in terms of volume.
• Standard: 0.75 L or five glasses.
• Magnum: 1.5 L, equivalent of two bottles or 10 glasses.
• Double magnum: 3 L, equivalent of four bottles or 20 glasses.
• Jeroboam: 4.5 L, equivalent of six bottles or 30 glasses.
• Imperial: 6 L, equivalent of eight bottles or 40 glasses.
•Salmanazar: 9 L, equivalent of 12 bottles or 60 glasses.
• Balthazar: 12 L, equivalent of 16 bottles or 90 glasses.
• Nebuchadnezzar: 15 L, equivalent of 20 bottles or 110 glasses.
• Solomon: 18 L, equivalent of 24 bottles or 130 glasses.
Orofino Cabernet Franc Rosé 2018
(Similkameen, 1.5 L, $39.99) Fresh raspberry, lemon, mineral.
Gérard Bertrand Côtes de Roses Rosé 2018
(Languedoc, 1.5 L, $49.99) Dry, fresh strawberry, red currants, white blossoms.
Pierre Paillard “Les Parcelles” Grand Cru Bouzy NV
(Champagne, 1.5L, $155.99) Dry, cooked apples, croissants, white pepper.
Bottega Prosecco Gold Label Brut NV
(Veneto, 3L $170) Dry, crisp yellow apple, tart berry, floral notes.
Foxtrot Pinot Noir 2014
(Naramata, 3L, $540) Sweet bruised cherry, roasted mushroom, forest floor, spice.
Meyer Family McLean Creek Road Pinot Noir 2014
(Okanagan Falls, 3L $240) Silky red raspberry, earth, mushroom, spice.
@ Vitis Magazine