First Published in The Irish Times Saturday 26th November 2016
Big bottles make a statement. They are inherently festive, immediately adding to that sense of occasion we want to create at any celebration. Many years ago, I arrived at a friend’s dinner party with a jeroboam of wine, the equivalent of six standard bottles. The fact that it was Beaujolais Nouveau made no difference. It was fun, and it looked great. I think the empty bottle adorned his windowsill for the next 10 years. Yet we remain reluctant to invest in large format bottles. Several retailers I spoke to lamented the fact that customers were much more likely to buy two or three standard bottles than a magnum. It may be an aversion to opening the equivalent of two bottles, even if you know full well that you are going to consume at least that, or it may be seen as a bit bling in these austere times.
Jeroboams are not easy to come across and are not easy to handle. Magnums, the equivalent of two bottles, are more practical and far easier to source. Most of the specialist wine retailers I contacted had an excellent selection and were expecting more in for Christmas. In fact, as there is often a slower turnover, you are more likely to come across older, more mature vintages of a wine in magnum. As wine apparently ages more slowly in magnums (it is all about the ratio of air to wine), this is a positive thing. This includes sparkling wine; many argue a magnum is the perfect size to mature Champagne. I have opened up a magnum of some kind every Christmas morning for many years, and will do so again this year. White wine can be a little more difficult to find, but I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to come across good quality wines. As for red wines, there is something available in every price bracket.
So this Christmas, why not go magnum force, serving sparkling, white and red from magnum? You could go the whole hog and invest in a late-bottled vintage port from magnum too. Marks & Spencer have their own-label LBV 2010, supplied by Taylor’s, no less. I would be very seriously tempted by the magnums of excellent Larmandier-Bernier Longitude Champagne for €119 in Terroirs in Donnybrook (and mail order), cheaper than many of the better-known but inferior brands. Red Bordeaux is not the best match with turkey, but if you are serving a roast of beef in the days following Christmas, a magnum will certainly impress, and there is a good selection in most shops. Otherwise, a magnum of Rioja, southern Rhône or Pinot Noir will accompany your turkey or goose perfectly.
Fresh crisp and fruity with a nice touch of brioche on the finish.
Stockists: Marks & Spencer
A very refined dry white with floral aromas and lightly textured green apple and pear fruits.
Stockists: 64 Wine, Jus de Vine, La Touche and Corkscrew
Aged six months in oak, giving a subtle spiciness to the vibrant dark cherry fruits. Greta with turkey.
Stockists: 64 Wine; The Corkscrew, Chatham St.; Baggot St. Wines.