Most people have seen a magnum, but there’s something particularly magnificent (hedonistic, obscene, wacky) about drinking from a bottle named after a Biblical king, like a methuselah (6 litres) or a Nebuchadnezzar (15 litres).
For one thing, wine is said to age more slowly and gracefully in these big bottles, meaning a wine from the 1940s will retain some excellent freshness alongside the tertiary notes of maturity.
Stand the bottle up
This is true with all old wine, but especially big bottles. Standing the bottle up 24 hours before you’re going to drink it gives the sediment time to sink to the bottom. With a large bottle you’re going to have a ton of sediment, so this is particularly important.
Sure, pouring a few glasses from a six-litre bottle is fun, but this gets tiresome really fast. Because of the amount of wine in the bottle, the pressure into the neck can be huge. I’ve unfortunately tipped an imperial (6 litres) too fast, and doused an unlucky friend. Get as many decanters as you can and use them all.
For the really big bottles, nine litres and above, you can actually get a piece of surgical tubing and use it to siphon off the wine into a decanter. This looks pretty cool in a mad scientist kind of way, but it also helps decant off the wine while leaving the sediment in the bottle. Tipping a giant bottle will shake up that sediment, which no one wants.
Buy them in the first place
In retail, large formats are sold at a premium. This used to be true at auction too. But more and more, I’ve seen big bottles going for great deals, presumably because people can’t imagine when they would drink 15 litres of ‘85 Lynch Bages. Buy it — you’ll find a reason.
Find that Reason
This is true for all wines, but large bottles in particular lend themselves to a party. Don’t buy a bottle and then hold on to it until the perfect time. Create the event around the bottle itself. Just e-mail your friends and say, ‘I have a d-mag of X.’ Doesn’t matter what it is, they’ll come, and voila, insta-party.
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Illustration by Joe McKendry.
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