The Easiest Way to be a Holiday Hero? Buy Magnums
Want to look like a big wheel when arriving at the holiday party? Double down on the bottle size.
It was at a housewarming party a few years back when I first learned the allure of the magnum. I arrived at the same time as another guest. I had brought a nice(ish) bottle of Cotes du Rhone, but in a magnum, and the fella beside me had arrived with something quite special—a bottle of 2000 Cos D’Etournel, a excellent Bordeaux from a stellar year (and about a $500 price tag).
All the hosts could talk about was my generosity.
A magnum always beats a single a bottle. A magnum always beats two bottles. It’s almost a no-brainer. Almost. There’s still a few rules you have to follow.
- The wine can’t be from Chile. Sorry Chile, this isn’t fair, but even if you roll in with a magnum of the lauded Don Melchor the hosts are going to think you cheaped out.
- Australia? See, Chile.
- Screwcaps—while amazing for most wines—make magnums look like the purview of hard drinkers.
- Have zero expectation that the hosts will open. They’ll cherish it and try, unsuccessfully, to jam the fat bottles in their existing wine racks.
- Magnums generally cost more than two bottles of the same wine because the bottles are much more expensive. As long as it’s a bit more it’s OK. But only a bit.
With that said here’s a selection that any host would swoon over:
Castillo de Almansa Reserve $23.50 I’m almost hesitant to reveal this wine it’s such a find. The label looks old and distinguished and the plus is that people generally aren’t familiar enough with Spanish wine to realize it’s from a lesser region (Almansa). It’s mostly the tempranillo grape and it’s pleasant to drink—fruit forward with some cloying vanilla flavours, but also some nice balanced acidity. Buy a case.
Monte Antico Rosso $35 People love Tuscany. And people associate Tuscan wine with a free-spending guest. This wine capitalizes on both those preconceptions. As a bonus it’s quite good wine. Says James Suckling: “A fruity wine with black cherry, blueberry and hints of pepper. Full and velvety with a long and delicious finish. Acidity is well-integrated with the fruit. One of the best value wines from Tuscany. Screw cap. A blend of Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Drink now.” He gave it 91 points, you should give it as a gift.
Laughing Stock Portfolio 2013 $110 Much of the B.C. wine that comes in the magnum—Sawmill Creek, Naked Grape—should only be consumed while wearing a hazmat suit. Not so with this wine. A recent decade deep vertical for this Bordeaux-inspired blend shows that it ages as well as any wine in B.C. and the magnum format—with its lower air-to-wine ratio—is perfect for aging. It’s not cheap but it will pay, wait for it, dividends in the future.
Orin Swift The Prisoner 2012 $105 Like B.C., California can be a magnum minefield (stay away from Barefoot wines, they’re not for you), but a bottle like this famed big-boned blockbuster wows Calif wine fans. The Prisoner is pure Cali: gets monster ratings, is a screwball mix of grapes (Zinfandel, Cabernet, Charbono?) and it’s big and boozy in a glass-staining sort of way.
Louis Jadot Beaune 1er Cru 153rd Anniversary $125 If you bring this wine to my house I might very well get a tattoo of your names on my ankle. Let’s start with the region—Burgundy—which even non-pinot noir lovers have to admit has a magical ring to it. The producer, Louis Jadot, is among the best and certainly easily one of the most reliable in the business, and to top it off there’s a brand new label just for this wine, which is not that big a deal, save for the fact that Jadot never changes its labels. And inside: “pure power, depth, harmony,” says great taster Antonio Galloni, who bestows 92 to 94 points on it. And it’s weirdly very well priced here (a single bottle in the U.S. is about $60).