I WAS going to start this month’s piece “Drink bigger this Christmas” — not with the intention of encouraging excessive drinking, but, rather, in my support for my alternative campaign for the “Suppression of the Neglect of Magnums”. When we have guests over the Christmas period, it is just the occasion to open a magnum rather than two bottles. A magnum should be a feature of every festal table.
Magnums account for no more than 0.5 per cent of the wine that we buy. This may be because they are little favoured by wine chains and supermarkets. Because they do not fit on regular shelves, they are elevated to the top rack, often out of reach of the shopper.
Many readers will remember coffee bars in the 1960s, when every table bore a guttering candle stuck into a raffia-bound Chianti flask. If you are feeling nostalgic, Lidl is offering a 1.5-litre fiasco of Chianti 2016 for £9.99. An Italian alternative is Waitrose’s Villa Cafaggio Chianti Classic 2015, for £26.99.
Argentine Malbec is now the red wine of choice for many, and here I might suggest Aldi’s Exquisite Selection Malbec at £11.99, or Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Fairtrade Morador 2016 from the Casa del Rey for £17.
Claret is naturally the wine that seems most at home in a magnum; here Marks & Spencer and Waitrose share the field. The former has a Grand Plessis Médoc 2016 (£20), and Margaux 2015 (£40), while the latter offers the humbler Château Pey la Tour Réserve, Bordeaux Supérieur 2012, for £24.99. Two final reds are a Châteauneuf du Pape 2015, from M&S (£38), and what would be my choice for a present: Château Musar 2006, from Lebanon (Waitrose, £50).
For a rosé, the increasing popularity of wines from the south of France brings you Sainsbury’s La Terrasse 2017, from the Pays d’Oc (£20), and Baron Gassier Côtes de Provence Ste. Victoire 2017 (£24). Waitrose has the Barton & Guestier Côtes de Provence 2017 (£16.99).
White wines in magnums are not easy to find. At the bargain end, however, I would suggest Sainsbury’s House Hock (£8.65), and Pinot Grigio (£9.25). At a higher level and price, I can recommend Majestic’s Definition Albariño (£22.99/£19.99) from north-west Spain, and, from Marlborough in New Zealand, the Ned Sauvignon Blanc 2017 (Waitrose, £19.99).
Finally, every Christmas party needs some sparkle, and, while sales of Prosecco have fallen in Britain during the past year, it is still popular. I think it is worth while going for wines with the superiore classification, such as the Valdobbiadene, from Tesco (£19), and Conegliano 2016, from Sainsbury’s (£16.15).
For Champagne-lovers, I would go for Louvel Fontaine Brut (Asda, £36), or Delacourt Brut (M&S, £55).
This Christmas, think big, but drink wisely.