Magnums are large, magnums are chunky and Magnums are cheeky. Is there a secret handshake, a nod and a wink, or a password in a language lost to time, that needs to be uttered to buy a magnum; or is the sheer size threatening? What about the magnum can be so intimidating that these gentle giants are lost to the braai?
Magnums should be mandatory at all gatherings and here are 5 points to prove it: 1. When you show up to your friends with your magnum, You look like a rockstar, and your invite to the next get-together is secured as well. 2. They look impressive, and magnums are just plain practical. The 750ml was said to be a suitable ration for one man with dinner. Then it is rational to buy a magnum for two. Still, there is also the famous saying that “A magnum bottle of wine is the perfect size for two people if one of them isn’t drinking.” – Anonymous.
3. Bigger bottles age better as it means thicker glass crucial for protection against light and drastic temperature changes. 4. There are limited large-format bottles produced, so chances are you may just find a hidden gem. ……………Are you convinced? But wait, there is more… 5. A large-format bottles superior ability to age is its greatest attribute. The evolution of the wine in the bottle is largely a result of the interaction of the wine itself with oxygen. A magnum has a similar-sized *ullage as a standard bottle, but twice the liquid inside. This means that the process of ageing will occur at a slower rate, thus affording the wine more time to achieve its ultimate peak of maturity. That is why 750ml bottles develop so much faster than large format bottles. *Ullage – is the tiny space of air between the top of the wine and the bottom of the cork.
HOW DO I STORE & AGE LARGE FORMAT BOTTLES? I briefly spoke with Paul Jordaan of Sadie Family Wines on how to store large-format bottles. “Storing of magnums…it all depends on the relative humidity and the conditions of the specific cellar/place where the magnums are stored. It is important to keep an eye on the relative humidity. In the case of high relative humidity, 70% and higher, then you can store magnums upright, and in the case of low relative humidity, lower than 70%, then the bottles should be stored lying down flat, preventing the cork from drying out otherwise.”
HOW BIG IS BIG? Lost to history is the reasoning behind most large-format bottles being named after biblical kings – not that we mind – as long as the bottle is full. I had to re-do the metric measurement on the bottle sizes. According to Google, a standard glass takes 150ml – hahaha, not in South Africa. I would say roughly 250ml is a decent South African pour. Keeping that in mind, find below “my” rough metric comparison on large-bottle formats. 6 glasses: 1.5 L Magnum: 2 standard 750 ml bottles
12 glasses: 3.0 L Double Magnum: 4 standard 750 ml bottles
And here’s where the Biblical guys come in
18 glasses: 4.5 L Jeroboam: Named after the King of Kings 6 standard 750 ml bottles
6.0 L Methuselah: Noah’s Grandfather, he lived to be 969 years old. 8 standard 750 ml bottles
36 glasses: 9.0 L Salmanazar: Assyrian King 12 standard 750 ml bottles
48 glasses: 12.0 L Balthazar: One of the three kings who presented the baby Jesus with gifts 16 standard 750 ml bottles.
60 glasses: 15.0 L Nebuchadnezzar: The King of Babylon 20 standard 750 ml bottles.
Then there is also the “Winston Churchill.” 20oz / roughly 600ml. This was Churchill’s preferred amount of champagne to have every morning around 11 am.
There was an incident where a young lady accused him of being a drunk, to which he infamously replied: “I may be drunk, Miss, but in the morning, I will be sober, and you will still be ugly.” So, consider a larger-format bottle the next time you are buying wine. Go big, be bold, be brave and buy yourself a Magnum.
Find below some magnums produced locally. They are perfect for a braai and have incredible aging potential.