How to use Magnums as a centerpiece for your dinner table.
Entertaining at home presents a fun challenge for me because I’m always looking for a way to do something a bit more extraordinary than before. I find the small touches that make a big statement, something that adds sophistication and makes the event more memorable.
“Magnums” contain 1.5 liters of wine or champagne, or the equivalent of two regular 750ml bottles. Two bottles in one! When you use magnums of wine on the table you get to enjoy the party more because you don’t have to keep jumping up and opening wine bottles as often. But, there’s more than just the convenience of having to open fewer bottles for your gathering.
No matter how you look at it, magnums create a great party atmosphere. Whatever the size of your gathering – large or small – when you have magnums as part of your centerpiece, the extra-large bottles immediately become fabulous additions to the tabletop and great conversation starters.
I went to a party in San Diego where the host served a double magnum of Champagne, equivalent to two magnums or four standard 750ml bottles. Just to get the cork out was a tremendous feat but, it took two guys to tip the bottle carefully to serve all the guests. That was not only a constant topic of conversation, it was also so much fun and the source of a whole lot of laughter all night long! It really added to the party atmosphere.
There’s also a practical perspective for magnums. Winemakers prefer larger bottle size because wine ages more slowly and gracefully in larger format bottles than in standard bottles. There are several reasons for this. One reason is that even though there is a greater volume of wine in the bottle, the amount of oxygen or “ullage” between the cork and the wine is the same as in a regular sized bottle. Corks are porous so tiny amounts of oxygen are let in (very, very slowly!) and that oxygen modifies the wine over time – aging the wine. Too much oxygen will eventually damage the wine but if there is a lot more wine in the bottle and still the same ullage and cork size then there is less risk of damage to the wine over the same amount of time. And, the bigger the bottle the more your wine is protected from other things that can damage it (larger bottles have thicker glass) – light, heat, changes in temperature and vibration from travel.
This is particularly true for Champagne where experts note that magnums help the wine retain a more youthful taste than when served from standard bottles. Also, due to the increased content volume, magnums tend to have slightly higher pressure which enhances the bubbles a bit – always a good thing in my opinion!
Either way, imagine one or two magnums sitting on your tabletop at your next party. You’ll enjoy the party with fewer interruptions to open more bottles and your guests will have a lot of fun passing the large bottles around the table to refill glasses. And think of all conversations that will start. But, the biggest benefit? You will be serving and enjoying wine that is closer to what the winemaker intended.