The extra freshness of the magnum
One of the tastings scheduled in the last edition of Madrid Fusión was a vertical (consists of trying several vintages of the same wine) of five Alenza vintages, the label created in the mid-nineties by Alejandro Fernández in Condado de Haza, his second winery in Ribera del Duero after Pesquera. All the wines were served in liter and a half bottles, known in the wine sector as magnums.
The magnum is often considered the ideal size for the collector. As there is a greater proportion of liquid compared to the same amount of oxygen than in a normal bottle, the development of the wine is slower. If the evolution of the same wine is monitored in both formats, it is common for the large bottle to maintain its fruity character and the freshness and tension of youth for longer.
Brands famous for their longevity such as Vega Sicilia bottle a significant amount of their production in magnums. Of the last vintage of Único launched on the market, that of 2013, almost 76,500 75-cl bottles have been made, 3,658 magnums, 362 double magnums (three liters capacity), 59 imperials (six liters) and 6 salmanazars (nine liters). Although the latest sizes are as anecdotal as they are difficult to handle, the historic Ribera del Duero firm has a loyal clientele that opts for the liter and a half format. Last year, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of its purchase by the Álvarez family, the house organized a tasting for the international press in which all the magnum-bottled Único vintages dating back to 1960 were sampled.
But you don’t always have to wait that long to uncork a large bottle. The freshness and vibrancy of a Louis Roederer Collection 243 Champagne magnum, like the one served at a recent presentation by its Spanish importer Primeras Marcas, can be as fascinating as it is addictive. The format is so suitable for quality sparkling wines that Penedès wineries such as Agustí Torelló Mata come to have a grand reserve cava that is sold exclusively in a liter and a half bottle. Aged for around 60 months, the 2017 vintage of this brut nature has abundant citrus notes and a juicy, vibrant palate. There is no better way to start a party.
Something similar occurs with white wines, especially when they are made with noble varieties or with the capacity to age. Perhaps the most interesting thing here is to find the intermediate point between the complexity that is achieved with the development of a few years in the bottle and the extra tension provided by the large format. The entry-level labels of reference wineries in Galicia are a good way to delve into this universe, and their Godello, Albariño or mixed variety whites, as is more common in Ribeiro, usually work very well in this line.
Although still in a minority, the world of sherry has also discovered the advantages of the magnum, especially for organically aged wines under a flor veil, even more so if they are bottled en rama; that is, without filtering or with very soft filters. Often the new size responds to the demand of the hospitality industry. But, once in the market, they serve to delight the devotees.
Although the price is usually a little higher than the sum of two 75-cl bottles, it can make the difference between a merely pleasant meeting and a memorable one.
Family Reserve Gran Reserva 2018 Brut Nature Magnum
Juve & Camps.
Macabeo, xarello, parellada. 12% vol. 38 euro.
With some 20,000 bottles of production in the liter and a half format, it is probably one of the gran reserva cavas with the greatest availability in magnums and with the added incentive of its organic certification. There are slight differences with respect to the 75 centiliter bottle. It has been aged for one more year (up to 48 months) and the feeling compared to its little brother is always much fresher and more vital, with an extra tension that is particularly appreciated in the category of sparkling wines.
Zárate Albariño 2021 Magnum
White, Rias Baixas.
Albariño. 13% vol. 32 euro.
The large bottle of one of the reference Albariños on the market is in faithful demand, which, together with a relatively low production in this format (about 500 magnums per year), means that it is necessary to be very attentive when it is released on the market. . The wine is the same that is marketed in 75 centilitres, but it is bottled later, in May, so it benefits from a greater complexity of aging. Its author, Eulogio Pomares, recommends uncorking it between three and four years after the harvest date.
under flower veil
Solera Fina María del Valle in Rama Magnum
Peter Jimenez. 15% vol. 53 euro.
The curious thing about this limited extraction from one of the soleras with the greatest personality in the region (it was originally created from wines from the Moriles area) is that it is only sold in extreme formats: just over 600 37.5-cl bottles and between 200 and 400 magnums. In the autumn 2021 collection there are fine hydrocarbon notes as a counterpoint to the touch of flower and dried fruit. On the palate it shows great freshness after an average of eight years of aging. Essential for lovers of biological breeding.
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