They say that nothing impresses quite so much as a magnum on a dinner table, but in the words of those more intelligent than I, does it though? An acrobat carving up a ten bird roast with their feet would be a mighty impressive sight at the dinner table and pretty tough to beat, so let’s not hyperbolise.
Nonetheless, it is true that there’s no better time to get evangelical about the larger formats than now. There is indeed a great sense of theatre when pouring wines from a bottle twice the size of that you use on any normal occasion; it symbolises ‘celebration’, is a great centrepiece on the dining room or restaurant table, and above all makes perfect sense for this time of year with Christmas on the horizon.
There are a bunch of technical reasons why magnums are better than regular bottles: slower, better, bottle-ageing due to the proportionally smaller amount of air in the bottle, having a greater glass surface area for the yeast to do its thing autolysis making it the perfect vessel for Champagne. But, from a consumers point of view, magnums look great, they make incredible gifts, they are wonderfully practical (no-one wants to keep getting up and down to the wine rack after eating grotesque amounts of minuscule sausages wrapped in bacon), and there’s even an argument that they provide greater bang for the buck with a lot of magnums representing the wines and vintages that estates really want to show off.
So unless you have a willing acrobatic neighbour, it’s worth thinking about championing the Magnum this Christmas and fortunately, we’ve got some real crackers for you to choose from:
Uggiano Chianti Reserva Fagiano 2013
A wine of impeccable pedigree and breeding, Uggiano’s ‘pheasant label’ Riserva romped home at this year’s SWAs with 4 medals, including ‘Critics’ Choice’ and the ‘Wine of the Year – Best in Show’ Trophy. Lying on the border between Chianti Classico and Chianti Colli Senesi, Uggiano’s property includes vineyards in both and each year a selection is made of the best wines from each. Aged for 14 months in French oak barriques and 6 months in large casks, Fagiano is a classic, with substance and concentration combined with bright, pure Sangiovese fruit.
Boutinot Rhône ‘Les Deux Barriques’ Cairanne Côtes du Rhone Villages 2011
“If 2011 Rhône was a Beatle, it would be George” analogized Matt Walls, writing in 2013 about the Southern Rhône vintage for www.timatkin.com.” The two stellar years of 2009 and 2010 would be Paul and John” and “the 2011s, like George Harrison, play an excellent supporting role”. Which leads us to ‘Les Deux Barriques’ 2011, a blend of Grenache, Carignan, Syrah and Mouvèdre. Made only when the vintage has given something special (2011 follows 2010 and 2005) the wine gained its name when, during regular barrel tastings to select the final blend of ‘La Côte Sauvage’, two outstanding barrels – ‘deux barriques’ – deserved to be bottled in their own right. A case of ‘Let it Be’ if you will. After time in bottle, the primary fruit and overt oak have matured into rich, autumnal aromas of dried fruit, with flavours of blueberries and black tea on the finish.
Il Cascinone D’Annona Barbera d’Asti Superiore 2012/14
D’Annona is a single vineyard Barbera from a beautiful site close to Nizza, right in the heart of the best area for Barbera d’Asti. The vines are properly old and austere, the wine is sublime and opulent.
Prà Amarone della Valpolicella 2012
Equal parts Corvina, Rondinella and Corvinone make up this suave brute of a wine. It’s the best disguised 16.5% abv you’ll taste, bitter cherry marries up with very fine black pepper spice resulting in a complex and very long denouement.
Campogiovanni Brunello di Montalcino 2013
Sister estate to San Felice, their Brunello di Montalcino has serious wild berry and leather complexity, an expansive palate and a beautifully persistent finish.