Size matters, google a Nebuchadnezzar or Melchizedek wine bottle and tell me you aren’t impressed. You probably also thought, well, that’s a little bit… impractical, and you would be right. Impractical, but impressive; even lifting a 30L Melchizedek needs a special decanting cradle to pour one of the 240 glasses it holds!
It may be the case for the biggest of bottles the wine world offers but impressive and impractical don’t need to go hand in hand. For impressive and practical we need to scale things back a little, well, quite a lot actually to a magnum. If you’re unsure a magnum is 1.5 litres or the equivalent of two standard bottles.
Showy, yes. Blingy, yes. An affront on British understatement, perhaps. Magnums are a must stock. If you need more convincing let’s go on and explore the reasons the Magnum offers a unique proposition to your wine offer.
Magnums add theatre
Simon Jerrome, our Wine Buying Director, says that “the present concern is that consumers are moving away from wine. With Brexit price inflation, there are two dynamics – one [effect] is that the price might encourage people to trade down, but the real opportunity lies in adding value to the customer base, which means more theatre”.
Bringing more theatre to the On-Trade provides a strong incentive for consumers to come out of the comfort of their own home. To enjoy the On-Trade as an experience and trade up on the drinks they buy. There can’t be many better options for transporting someone into a Baz Luhrmann film that popping and pouring a magnum of Champagne. They provide the ultimate show stopper to every occasion and especially a celebration. Consumers love the theatre of the magnum and we shouldn’t underestimate the impact this can have on social media. A magnum is a perfect prop for an Instagram spree that unintentionally gets the word out that your venue is the place to go for a celebration.
Magnums are practical
Your standard bottle of wine will give you 3 large 250ml glasses of wine or of course 6 glasses of something sparkling. Rumour has it that the standard bottle size was originally based on how much a single person would usually consume with a hearty meal. While no one should be drinking in those quantities, when dining in a group a standard bottle sometimes doesn't quite go far enough. Excluding the whole rigour of getting a waiters attention or customers having to head back to the bar for another bottle, it’s perfectly likely that you will get a second bottle that isn’t quite the same. The nature of wine making does, of course, mean variation between vintages and even bottles. A magnum ensures over a meal, everyone is enjoying the same wine.
Magnums offer value for money
Perhaps we are playing fast and loose with the definitions here of good value. Two standard size bottles will likely be cheaper than a magnum. The cost of creating and transporting the big bottle, in a world set up to deal with the 75cl, pushes up the price against the expected economies of scale. So what are we getting at? Well, two things really.
Firstly, a magnum ages far better than a standard bottle due to the ratio of air trapped inside the bottle to the volume of liquid. This means the wine takes longer to mature adding extra complexity to the wine. You’ll get a better tipple for your money.
Secondly, the magnum adds value with the theatre it brings, you can charge slightly more as customers will be willing to pay the extra. They make nice mementoes of an occasion. Even if they get left behind, take a look online for some ideas of how to turn them into something interesting. Your back bar display may never be the same again.
Magnums tastes better
It's more trouble for a winery to create a magnum, getting the bottles made, transported and packaged comes with an extra headache. They don’t just make magnums for any wine. When a winemaker decides to make a magnum you can be sure that they believe in the quality of the wine, why else go the extra length?
That, however, isn’t the only reason a Magnum tastes better. As mentioned above, a magnum is better for ageing and also for production. Autolysis, the reactions that take place in the bottle during the second fermentation, is vital for shaping the flavours of Champagne. This process works much more efficiently in magnums due to the larger surface area of wine to bottle. During ageing, the larger wine surface area of a magnum allows for the best balance between intensity of flavour and freshness.
Now I hear you ask, “why not go bigger?”. The simplest answer is that the ratios at play are simply at their best in a magnum. The cost of a bottle, the surface area, the ease of transporting, storing and serving and the risks associated. With large wine bottles, the liquid is often poured in from multiple smaller sized bottles which adds to the risk of corking. If you want theatre and practicality, tasty magnums are the way to go.