Over the years, I have managed to acquire a few large format bottles of wine, usually after a couple of drinks at a charity event. While the size of these bottles is impressive, their utility is limited, since our dining room table can only comfortably accommodate 10 and less comfortably 12. Holly’s family descended upon us over the holidays for a Christmas dinner for a cramped 12, and this gave me the chance to use one of my big three liter bottles. For reasons no one seems able to explain, large format bottles have bizarre multisyllabic biblical names or are named after ancient, arcane monarchs. Thus, we have the Jeroboam (3 liters in Champagne, Burgundy and the U.S., but inexplicably 4.5 liters in Bordeaux), the Rehoboam (4.5 liters), the Methuselah (6 liters), followed by Salmanazar, Balthazar, Nebuchadnezzar and several more, until we arrive at the 30 liter daddy of them all, the Melchizedek that might be as rarely seen these days as the biblical high priest and King of Salem for which it is named. I think you would need a dinner party of one hundred plus to make a dent in a container holding the equivalent of 40 regular sized bottles of wine. And how does one remove the cork from a bottle of such titanic proportions? An industrial auger? Call Halliburton and let’s start drilling.
The wine I retrieved from my cellar was one-tenth the size of Mel’s and the cork was easily removed in the usual manner. One purported advantage of large format bottles is that they should age in a more leisurely manner than the regular 750 ml bottles. This is because the ratio of air in the neck to the volume of wine in the bottle is much less than in a regulation bottle. Of course, it helps if the wine was good to start with and hasn’t sat in the cellar too long, as was the case with my poor, tired bottle of the 1994 Kendall-Jackson Meritage.
The wine was drinkable, but lacking in fruit and any sort of complexity. It was probably a pleasant wine in its youth, but now sort of blah and dull. No one seemed to mind, since the Champagne we had with the hors d’oeuvres was excellent and was followed by an impromptu preprandial vodka tasting. The dinner itself was an unqualified success and guests feasted on Butternut Squash Soup (secret ingredient: honey), Arugula Salad with Pine Nuts, Pears and Goat Cheese, Short Ribs in a rich reduction sauce accompanied by Polenta Squares and Baby Bok Choy.
I think I still have two large bottles in the cellar. One is a 1994 or 1995 Girard Cabernet and the other is a 2007 Ridge Lytton Springs. Now all I need are ten more people.