Going Large

POSTED ON 08/11/2014

Magnums are big, or so it seems. I can’t recall having seen quite such an impressive array of magnums in pre-Christmas tastings, or should that be such an array of impressive magnums. Size isn’t everything, apparently, but the sheer majesty of a magnum on the dinner table is a magnificent sight. Size also has its practical uses. The wine in a 1.5 cl bottle generally keeps better, so if you were thinking of laying the odd magnum down, champagne in particular is well-served by this tip. The only downsides I can think of are finding enough fridge space and, perish the thought, a corked magnum. Ouch!

With an eye on Christmas , Marks & Spencer showed a number of impressive magnums of fizz, and not all champagne, at its autumn tasting. From England’s South Downs, Mike Roberts’ 2000 Ridgeview Blanc de Blancs, an online exclusive at £75, is wonderfully mature and toastily rich, an excellent way to impress overseas guests, particularly if they’re from Champagne. Speaking of which, M&S also has one of the best non-vintage champagnes in magnum, the exceptional Pol Roger, £79, whose elegantly textured creamy mousse is shot through with biscuity flavours and finishes satisfyingly dry. I should also mention the Prosecco Magnum from Masottina, £19.99, M&S, which shows a crowd-pleasing apple and pear richness and a cleansing dryish aftertaste.

Rioja is making a big splash in magnums and I only wish I could recommend the 1980 Marqués de Murrieta Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva, shown at the Rioja tasting, even at £553.85 a pop, but alas this monument is not in the shops. So let me turn your attention to the 2008 Muga Reserva Rioja, £29, The Wine Society, whose magnum of fleshy strawberry fruit upholstered with succulent vanilla oak, is delicious. Or, for the bees magnum knees, the 2005 Contino Gran Reserva Rioja, around £100, Berry Bros, D Byrne & Co, The Wine Society, The Leamington Wine Co, Harrods, a gorgeously fragrant and intensely flavoured, silkily-textured tinto, perfectly mature now, yet bright, fresh and modern.

As good as any village red burgundy, Bodega Chacra’s 2013 Barda Pinot Noir, £44.75, Lea & Sandeman, comes from Piero Incisa della Rochetta's Patagonian vineyard, currently producing the best pinot in Argentina. Based on vines originally planted in 1932 and 1955, it’s bright and fresh with an invitingly raspberryish fragrance and seductively juicy mulberry fruit quality. In contrast, the 2011 Amarone della Valpolicella Villalta Classico, £45 (or £25 in 75 cl. bottle), Marks & Spencer, is rich in cherry and raisin aromas, its spice-infused, cherry-sweet fruit derived from the richness of corvina grapes left to shrivel and concentrate over the winter. It’s a powerful red for rich dark meats but at its best with hard cheeses such as Comté or Pecorino.

Something for The WeekendSomething for The Weekend

Night In

2013 Côtes du Rhône Villages.

A grenache and syrah blend, this is a bright, aromatic Rhône from Cellier des Dauphins with a twist of pepper and plenty of succulent cherry and raspberry fruitiness for washing down pizza, pasta and grilled meats. £8.50, Marks & Spencer.

Dinner Party

2013 Paul Cluver Chardonnay, Elgin

Paul Cluver’s cool climate wines become increasingly impressive, his chardonnay a dry white with subtle toasty oak and a fine purity of fruit blending tropical elements of peach and pineapple in restrained, refreshingly dry Burgundian mould. £13.99, Tesco (major stores).

Splash Out

2012 Lowburn Ferry Pinot Noir, Central Otago

This fine Kiwi pinot exudes a fresh berry fruit fragrance with rich opulently loganberry flavours, spicy oak and a juicy fresh mulberry bite whose savoury finish cries out for autumn game. £29 -32.95, wine trust100.co.uk, Cambridge Wine Merchants, Vagabond Wines.

Our sponsor