Saturday, January 2, 2010

Size Matters

Ok, I know what you are thinking but you have plenty of time to get your head back in the gutter after having enjoyed some of these large format bottlings.

Let's start by listing the most popular sizes:
-Split: 187ml (1/4 bottle)
-Half Bottle: 375ml
-Standard: 750ml
-Magnum: 1.5L (2 bottles)
-*Jeroboam or Double Magnum: 3L (4 bottles)
-*Rehoboam: 4.5L (6 bottles)
-Methuselah or Imperial: 6L (8 bottles)
-Salmanzar: 9L (12 bottles)
-Balthazar: 12L (16 bottles)
-Nebuchanezzar: 15L (20 bottles)
-Melchoir: 18L (24 bottles)

*it should be noted that some of these bottlings are only meant for Champagne and a Jeroboam for still wine is 4.5L (6 bottles)

You may have noticed that the names given to these bottlings are mostly biblical. It's no wonder as wine has played a huge role in many religions. Here are some of the meanings:

-Jeroboam: "First King of The Kingdom"

-Methuselah: "Oldest Man"

-Salmanzar: "Assyrian King"

-Balthazar: "One of The Wise Men", or the famed french bistro in Manhattan

-Nebuchadnezzar: "King of Babylon", and also the name given to Morpheus's ship in "The Matrix"

I think it is also important to say that with large format bottles comes more age ability since wine preserves wine. For instance, when you compare a half bottle of wine to a magnum you will notice a much higher percentage of wine on the surface area of the half bottle thus leaving it more susceptible to the elements that damage or accelerate the maturation process IE: light, temperature fluctuation, and oxygen.

Larger bottles also have a way of making a very dramatic statement. Nothing says "special occasion" like a jeroboam of wine with dinner. They also make for great aesthetics in any wine cellar. Often times the production of larger bottles are limited and prove to be great collectibles. I had the pleasure of recently enjoying an Imperial of Silver Oak from 1992 autographed by the late Justin Meyer (winemaker). One of only 200 bottles produced. To this day, It's the best Silver Oak I have ever tasted. If I had to speculate in terms of youth, I would say that it would be the equivalent of enjoying that same wine from a standard bottle back in 1999.

While it is proven that wines do age at a slower pace due to the decreased air to wine ratio for larger bottles, it does not mean that bigger is always better. In fact, often times larger bottlings of champagne are filled by pouring individual standard bottles until it is filled, thus making the wine more for novelty and not particularly age-worthy.

If less than 5% of the world's wines are meant to be aged, my advice would be to invest in some of the more age-worthy appellations when looking to purchase large format bottles. I personally enjoy collecting large format Bordeaux over any other region.

Eat, Breathe, Drink Wine...