Sun, Feb 19|
Forgeron Cellars Woodinville
PK's Picks Does Size Really Matter?
PK's Picks Woodinville Tasting Room Sunday, February 19 12:00-1:00 p.m. $25 pp No charge for Wine Club members DOES SIZE REALLY MATTER? LARGE FORMAT COMPARATIVE TASTING. 2016 Anvil by Forgeron Syrah 750mL vs 1.5L 2017 Anvil by Forgeron Proprietary Blend 750mL vs 1.5L Small bites included.
Time & Location
Feb 19, 2023, 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM
Forgeron Cellars Woodinville, 14344 Redmond - Woodinville Rd NE, Redmond, WA 98052, USA
About the event
Join PK for an educational session on large format wines:
DOES SIZE REALLY MATTER?
LARGE FORMAT COMPARATIVE TASTING.
2016 Anvil by Forgeron Syrah 750mL vs 1.5L
2017 Anvil by Forgeron Proprietary Blend 750mL vs 1.5L
Small bites included: Smoked salmon toast, lamb slider,
smoked seitan (veg).
$25pp // RESERVATIONS REQUIRED
No charge for Wine Club members with reservation.
Seating is very limited.
DOES SIZE MATTER?
Wine can be considered as an entrant under many categories. Adult beverage – check. Food product - check. Living, breathing thing – yes, that, too. But as a work of art? Well, before you scoff at the notion, consider this – wine has long been viewed as a collectible. Every major auction house has a Fine Wine Department. What makes a wine collectible?
To be classified as a collectible, an item must have some recognizable monetary or intrinsic value. The sheer rarity of it often defines its worth. Collectible works of art, be they paintings, sculptures, rare gems, or bottles of wine, are frequently (and perhaps primarily) purchased as investment opportunities. What specific qualities have contributed to all of the largest sums ever spent on wines at auction? Rarity, certainly. All have been one of a very few (if not the one and only) such bottles remaining in existence. Age, in some instances, has played a part. For instance, a Chateau Margaux from 1787, reputedly from the cellar of none other than famed wine afficionado & collector Thomas Jefferson, anchors the back end of the top ten. However, most of the remaining top ten most expensive auction wines share a different singular trait – they were all large format bottles, either in Magnum (double bottle) or Imperial (eight bottles in one) sizes. Large format sizes are typically produced in much smaller lots, if they’re produced at all, consistently making them more valuable as an investment. But is that the only value one can expect from large formats, a greater resale value? Not necessarily.
To backtrack a bit, wine bottle sizes range from Piccolo, or Split, clocking in at a scant 187 milliliters (equal to one-quarter of a standard bottle, roughly a single glass), all the way up to the thirty liter Midas, aka Melchizedek, which somehow fits forty bottles into a single vessel. As bottle sizes increase, they are typically named for ancient Kings or Biblical figures, such as Methuselah, Balthazar, Solomon and Goliath. An exception is the 26.25 liter size named Sovereign, created specifically by the famed Champagne House Taittinger to christen the launch of the largest-ever ocean liner (bet you can guess the name of the ship).
Prior to 1979, there was no universal standard for bottle size. There are multiple theories why the 750 ml (milliliter) became the status quo. Some believe that to be the usual lung capacity of a human glass blower (although many would reply that was closer to 730 ml, as evidenced by some older bottles still in circulation). Still others point to the British and their affinity for Oporto at the end of the 18th Century, which was shipped in barrels that, when divided into 300 equal portions, came to 750 ml each (far more convenient than the previous division of ‘Imperial Gallons’, equaling 4.456 liters each). In truth, the short answer can be found in Title 17 of the Code of Federal Regulations, when the US and Canada agreed that standardizing the 750 ml size of wine bottle preferred by the European Union would greatly simplify shipping and exportation, easing trade restrictions worldwide.
So why bother to continue the production of larger size wine bottles, beyond the investment potential due to rarity? Many collectors who believe strongly in enjoying the spoils of their efforts at the peak complexity of aromatics and maturity of flavor point to the simplest of facts as a reason to veer toward larger formats – the sheer size of the Magnum bottle (the most popular large format) means there exists twice the amount of wine being affected (due to the similar cork and bottleneck size) by the same amount of air as a 750 ml, meaning, you guessed it, in a perfect world (or even the rather unpredictable and erratic one in which we all currently reside), the wine will age at half the pace, taking twice as long to evolve and build to a climactic, symphonic finish. Many swear that this process allows for deeper, richer tones and wider, more exotic, complexities. Large formats are also made (speaking in broad generalities) from thicker glass of slightly darker hue, allowing for more resistance to temperature variation and light damage during the cellaring process.
Therein lies the rub (or where the rubber meets the road, or some similar ridiculous cliché that no one currently breathing can accurately explain how wine breathing actually works); when you spare no expense to purchase a large format collector’s bottle, and store it correctly for a lengthy period of time, you are rolling some rather largely formatted dice. Not the fuzzy ones, either. Because, given the vagaries of cork closure and bottle variation, even in the finest of fine wines, you may have committed an inordinate amount of time, money, and patience to reach a non-existent wine nirvana, just because a cork failed to do its job. Case in point: while prepping for this particular exercise, we utilized a handy dandy Coravin Wine Preservation device to taste both 750 ml and Magnum sized Anvil wines from the same vintage. The Coravin – terrific wine accessory, particularly for a scenario such as this, where we are sampling small sips of same vintage/variant sizes of reserve wines, over a block of time, without allowing oxygenation to affect the results. And, the Coravin – not so great when faced with a faulty cork closure. It tends to push the entire cork back into the bottle.
Put it this way – when the ‘person of principled palate’ you’ve chosen to undertake this exercise with wrinkles up their nose and tells you “go ahead, say something nice about this wine – you’re the Wordsmith”, the bad cork in a large format looms ever larger. Yet, despite the disappointment in thely particular poor showing for a bottle highly anticipated to be of uniquely memorable quality, this exercise was not one of futility, as the other face-off between Magnum vs 750 ml Anvil Reserve was all sorts of special sauce, serving to underscore the reason for embarking on this journey to begin with.
We will revisit the entire exercise during the next PK’s Picks seminar, substituting a Magnum free of flawed cork closure for the other Anvil by Forgeron, but just to tie a bow on the entirety of this article – the Magnum matters. If you want to drink your top quality wines sooner, stick with the 750 ml size, that will likely reveal earlier examples of increased complexity and return on investment. However, if you can spare the time, money, and storage space (because, let’s face it, unless it’s a custom job, wine cellars are not structured for large format aging in ideal situations), the large format may well be worth your wait. Even if the occasional corked or cooked wine rears its ugly head, the results from the Magnums (or larger sized bottles) will reward your patience and wherewithal by providing you with darker, richer, thicker, more involved tasting experiences that exude more gravitas and linger larger longer.
Ultimately, if asked tomorrow, I’d have to say size matters – and isn’t always the answer.