How to water a crowd in style: bring on the magnum!
Face it, a magnum carries weight. It only holds the equivalent of two standard bottles of wine, but pull one out and people take pause. Magnums also water a crowd with less fuss, less waste, and less expense than their 750mL counterparts.
Wine aficionados with deep pockets tend to collect magnums of top, cellarworthy wines because they age more slowly than standard bottles. And certainly, they can be brilliant kaleidoscopes of flavour when finally uncorked. But you don’t need to pull out a 40-year-old magnum of classed growth Bordeaux to add panache to a party. You can serve a smart, undervalued selection from the LCBO for a bit of fun too.
One such gem is the 2015 Monasterio de las Vinas Crianza from Carinena, Spain (LCBO 393090 $19.95/1500mL). This traditional Spanish red offers inspiring value and drinks like a wine worth twice the price. It’s heady aromas of black cherries, dark chocolate cake, and cream lead to a swift, smooth swirl of crushed berries—mostly cherries but blackcurrant too. Then muted notes of dark chocolate mousse, sun-warmed violets, red meat and black pepper emerge and linger. Pour this oak-aged blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Garnacha, Carinena and Tempranillo with confidence. Score: 93
If the 2015 Monasterio de las Vinas Crianza is sold out or isn’t stocked at your local LCBO, the next best big bottle would be the 2015 Bodegas Piqueras Castillo de Almansa Reserva from Almansa, Spain (LCBO 649749 $18.95 till Apr. 28, reg. $21.95/1500mL). It’s a slightly more savoury expression that blends Monastrell, Garnacha Tintorera, and Tempranillo. From its deep fragrance of poached plum and warm leather to its warm contours of velvet fruit, it’s a sure crowdpleaser. Expect plush flavours of dark berries and plum, toasted tobacco, leather and cedar that linger. This wine tastes better in a magnum than it does in the 750mL format. Score: 91
Either of these two Spanish reds noted above work marvelously well with meats or roasted poultry, as well as a nibble of Manchego, the Spanish sheep’s milk cheese.
For a lighter, lifted style of red from the breezy south of France, grab a magnum of 2017 La Vieille Ferme from the Cotes du Ventoux in the Rhone region of France (LCBO 447896 $21.75/1500mL). Made by the Perrin Family, who also owns the prestigious Chateau de Beaucastel, this wine starts with soft scents of blackcurrants before sweeping over the palate with a dry wash of flavour—homemade blueberry tart, tapenade, cool chalk and dried herbs. It’s a supremely drinkable blend of Carignan, Cinsault, Grenache and Syrah with equal parts juicy goodness and restrained vinousity. Pure casual elegance. Score: 90
This breezy French red goes with almost anything at all, but is particularly delicious with roast turkey or pork paté.
If the occasion calls for a dozen four-ounce pours of proper Champagne—the number of servings in a magnum—and you want a decent bottle that’s readily available at the LCBO, then reach for this magnum of NV Veuve Clicquot Brut (LCBO 572586 $156.90). Each glass strums along with riveting aromas and flavours of caramelized baked apple and butter pastry that shifts seamlessly to reveal touches of white flowers, warm vanilla, cool nut and more. Both tightly spun but also delicate and elegant, this Champagne is sure to please. Score: 93+
Champagne, of course, is lovely on its own. But brilliant matches include mushroom tart, smoked salmon on toast or Gouda.
Here’s to a party in a bottle.
Carolyn Evans Hammond is a Toronto-based wine writer and a freelance contributor for the Star. Reach her via email: