Go big: the science of serving wine from large bottles
Let’s face it: large format wine bottles look fantastic and when you spot one, you know instantly that festive times lie ahead. But aside from looking like an extremely generous host for bringing one out, what are the other benefits to having wine in large formats? How do you attempt to uncork such enormous bottles and what is the ideal way to serve these treasures? This is your Clos19 guide to when more really is more.
Like certain other things in life, with wine, bigger is often better. The larger the bottle, the better the wine will age as it does so more slowly and gracefully. Wine from a larger bottle will show fresher aromas for longer, maintain more acidity and have more robust tannins than the same wine tasted from a smaller bottle. It may take a little longer to reach its drinking window but when it does, chances are that the flavours will appear even more seamless than they otherwise would.
To learn more on what happens in the bottle, watch our Taste Lab video.
Preparing to pull a colossal cork
You don’t need to wait for a big occasion to pop a giant cork; opening a large format IS the occasion! Before opening your large bottle of wine though, stand it upright for twenty-four hours. The bigger the bottle, the more sediment it may throw, so you’ll want that to sink to the bottom rather than drink a glassful of grit. And when you do attempt to open anything larger than a magnum, use a two-pronged wine opener rather than a normal corkscrew. This is because the corks on particularly large bottles tend to be more brittle as they’re usually stored standing upright (seriously, who has wine racks that big?!) so the wine can’t keep the cork moist. Slide the prongs in between the cork and the bottle and pull very slowly.
Tip: you might also want to wear an apron...
Perfecting your prodigious pour
When pouring from a large format, you’ll want to avoid a wine tsunami (yes, that is a ‘thing’), which can and does happen. For anything up to a jeroboam (4.5 L), get someone with enough muscle to lay the bottle along their forearm with the bottom touching the crease of the elbow. Very slowly, tip the arm with the bottle to pour. For extra stability, place the other hand underneath the neck.
Anything bigger than a jeroboam will usually require the help of another person. Tipping too much can stir up the sediment, so decanters in this circumstance will be your friend; you pour and tip the bottle fewer times. With the extra-large bottles, you won’t want to tip them much at all if you can help it. Some folk use plastic tubing to siphon off the wine from these into decanters. Now, that’s true dedication to the cause!