This is the season for oversized bottles of wine, poured freely at parties and celebrations, often eliciting gasps of wonder from eager wine lovers. Large-format bottles have been touted by winemakers as vessels of slow aging, preserving a wine’s freshness and grace, and possibly becoming more complex over time. There is no doubt that they make a star entrance at any function. From a Magnum (1.5 L, equal to 2 standard 750 ml bottles), all the way up the scale to a Nebuchadnezzar (15 L, equivalent to 20 standard bottles), these king-sized bottles, named for biblical ones such as Balthazar, are a way to experience wine on a grand scale. Often priced at a discount, with the added bonus of being a great conversation piece, the drama of pouring wine from one of these large bottles makes everyone giddy with anticipation.
Most wine stores stock up on large-format wine bottles for the holiday season. Champagne is the wine of choice for most of these oversized bottles, Magnums being most popular, but still wines are also available. Costco offers large-format bottles at most stores during this holiday season, from Champagnes to still wines, which recently caused quite a stir among Sunday morning shoppers unused to seeing these behemoth beauties. Even seasoned wine buyers toted off these trophy-sized wines, with dreams of happy times ahead. Yours truly hefted a 2012 Banfi Col Di Sasso Toscana IGT Super Tuscan blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Sangiovese in the 5L size, known as a Jeroboam, into my cart. Col di Sasso is Italian for “Stony Hill”, and these grapes come from the pedigreed hillsides near Montalcino, Italy, home to the famous Brunello di Montalcino. Castello Banfi is a well renowned producer of high end Brunellos and while this is a simple table wine, it is excellent value for the money, $45 for the Jeroboam which is almost seven bottles in one. The production notes that after harvest, the grapes are separately vinified and fermented, then blended, without the use of oak, and aged in the bottle for a short time before release. It’s a medium-bodied wine, easy-drinking with soft tannins, red and black cherry fruit, hints of raspberry, and a whiff of violet, perfect for the Christmas Day holiday meal of prime rib, leg of lamb, roasted birds, and any full flavored side dishes. It’s Italian in its flavor profile, with hints of sour red cherry, a bit earthy, and good acidity, and 13% ABV makes it more of a food wine.
Next time you’re asked to bring wine to a holiday party, consider picking up a Magnum or larger format bottle for the WOW factor, and jingle on, Jeroboam!