What's "hot" this holiday season for wine lovers?

Large format bottles that make a statement.

They're big, bold, and beautiful -- gold-etched labels add elegance -- and represent a perfect gift for the connoisseur, collector or special person in your life.

They also add luster to any holiday party and dinner table.

I'm talking about Magnums, Double Magnums, Jerobaums and maybe even a rare Imperial (see size chart below).

The Wine ConneXtion in North Andover has one of the most expansive large format bottle displays in Middlesex County, if not all of Massachusetts.

It's worth the trip just to see these perfect glass bottles sitting tall on shelves or resting on their sides in a wooden box, ready to be wrapped like a Christmas gift and topped with a red bow.

According to Sam Messina, the store's co-owner with sister Tina, there are 150 large format bottles now on display -- and some are very rare and expensive -- like the 3-bottle case of Opus One. Only six cases were shipped to the Bay State, and the Wine ConneXtion received two of them. Each 1.5-liter Opus One bottle costs $649.99 but Sam, I'm sure, will give you a deal if you buy the trifecta.

Not all large format bottles are priced for the Gatsbys of the world, however.



In fact, more wineries are producing affordable, large format bottlings to suit a growing consumer demand for "party" sized portions (1-5-liter Magnums, 3-liter Double Magnums). But quantities are limited, especially for older vintages which are the envy of wine collectors. (There's a 5-liter bottle of 1995 Duckhorn Merlot from the prestigious Howell Mountain Vineyard in Napa Valley selling for $499.99.)

Recently, I purchased a Magnum of Michael David's 2013 Petite Petite Sirah for $27.99. It's a 94-point rated wine (Wine Enthusiast) that retails for $18 for a standard-sized 750 milliliter bottle. So I got the equivalent of two bottles ($36 total cost) at a savings of $8. (A Magnum of the highly acclaimed Michael David Freakshow Cabernet Sauvignon is selling for $29.99.)

I also purchased a Magnum of the rich, juicy, creamy Rombauer Vineyards Carneros Chardonnay for $69.99. The winery sells it for $75 a Magnum.

If I had a truck, I probably would have purchased the 5-liter bottle of Rocca della Macie Chianti Classico 2013 selling for $99. (Hint: Maybe the Wine Goddess will surprise me with a bottle on Dec. 25.)

Because large format bottles contain more wine, the aromas and flavors are more concentrated and intense than found in standard-sized bottles. Also, they are said to age better if properly stored in a cellar.

Large format bottles are uniquely named and may come in the following sizes:

  • Magnum,1.5 liters, is equal to two (2) standard 750-milliliter bottles
  • Double Magnum, 3 liters, is equal to four (4) standard bottles
  • Jerobaum, 4.5-liters, is equal to six (6) standard bottles (three Magnums)
  • Imperial, 6-liters, is equal to eight (8) standard bottles, or two Double Magnums
  • Salmanazar, 9 liters, is equal to 12 standard bottles -- or a case of wine!
  • Balthazar, 12 liters, is equal to 16 standard bottles or two Imperials
  • Nebuchadnezzar, 15 liters, is equal to 20 standard sized bottles

(Trivia note: Jerobaum, Salmanazar and Nebuchadnezzar take their names from Biblical kings; Balthazar was one of the three Wise Men to present gifts at Jesus' nativity.)

Any wine bottle that requires an industrial strength hoist to get it from the floor to the dinner table is not on my Christmas list.

However, if you need help drinking a Jerobaum or two, give me a call.