Magnum bottles seem to occupy a strange place in the minds of wine lovers. They are harder to get, for one thing, and sometimes they suffer from a reputation as cheap, ostentatious and unnecessary. But, in some cases when it comes to wine, bigger sometimes really is better.
And no, it isn’t just when trying to show off that magnum bottles come in handy either. There’s a reason that dating back to wine’s origins, it was kept in grand bottles far larger than our current ones, (and why those large bottles are now referred too with archaic, religiously inspired names).
It’s actually accepted that many wines are better off aged in magnum bottles, which at 1.5l are twice the size of standard bottles. This is particularly true of red wines.
The benefits is due to the slightly higher ratio of wine to oxygen in magnum bottles; it is ideal for bringing out the best characteristics in red wine as it ages.
The way this works comes down to the aging process. Of course, desirable red wines spend at least some months aging in cellars. The magnum bottle’s awesome ratio of wine to air in the bottle leaves the wine less exposed to the effects of oxygen than in other bottles, where the ratio of air to wine is slightly higher.
During ageing in a magnum, wine still picks up the beneficial effects of the oxygen, but it does so much more slowly than it would in, say, a standard bottle. This allows the wine’s complexities and flavours to be teased out gradually and more gracefully, leading to wine with greater depth and character.
This is specific to magnum bottles too. Going down to a standard 750ml bottle of course increases the air to wine ratio, but so does moving up to a 3l double magnum and beyond and things shift just slightly away from this golden ratio thanks to the subtle variations in the amount of space left in the bottle. Something about the size and shape of a magnum is just ideally suited to bringing out the best in a bottle of red.
What do you know! It seems like size does matter after all.
Watch out for some exciting magnum related news on BottlesXO in the near future! And, to learn more about magnum bottles and how they fit in to the world of big, badass wine bottles, check out our ingo-graphic here.