They’re house wines. Picnic wines. Beach wines. The wines you serve when friends come over for burgers on the grill. The wine for outdoor weddings when the guest list has gotten out of control. The wines to drink without serious reflection, without oohing and
They’re magnum wines.
By magnums, I mean wines in 1.5-liter bottles instead of the usual 750-milliliter bottles. Twice the fun, but usually at least a buck less than twice the price of the smaller bottles.
Magnum wines aren't "jug'' wines, even though some people call them that. Jug wines are gallon bottles with ears, often generic wines of lesser quality. Magnum wines are usually the same wine a given producer puts in the 750-milliliter bottle. Just more of it.
They range from about $7 to about $15.
Magnum wines are growing more chic every year. With the advent of wine schools such as the one at the University of California’s Davis campus, growers and winemakers have the process down to enough of a science that flawed wines are rare.
What sets apart most magnum wines is larger-scale production. Often they're made with grapes from hot areas, picked at eight to 10 tons per acre, while really top wines are cropped at two to four tons for more intense flavors. They don’t get the individual care of grapes for $50 wines -- the pruning of individual leaves, for example, to ensure the perfect amount of sun on each grape.
Magnum wines often get less oak aging -- certainly not in $600 French oak barrels that can add $3 to the price of a single bottle of the expensive stuff. They're aged in older, bigger, cheaper barrels; sometimes they get their oak flavors from oak chips put into giant tea bags and dunked into the wine.
They may lack the power and complexity of $50 wines, but they’re great for such everyday occasions as Thursday night meatloaf dinners. The world would be a lesser place without them.
(All wines are in 1.5-liter magnums.)
• 2007 Woodbridge Sauvignon Blanc by Robert Mondavi, California: crisp and light; lemon
and limes; $13.39.
• Nonvintage Corbet Canyon Sauvignon Blanc, California: soft and lightly sweet, with
apricot and peach flavors; $9.99.
• 2007 Vendange Sauvignon Blanc, California: sweet lemons and pineapples; full-bodied;
• 2007 Woodbridge Zinfandel, California: rich and ripe, with red raspberry and
chocolate flavors; $13.39.
• 2005 Vendange Cabernet Sauvignon, California: soft and ripe, black cherry and coffee flavors; $8.49.
• 2005 Lindemans Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon, Australia: soft, lightly sweet; red
raspberry and cherry flavors; $12.99.
• 2007 Yellow Tail Shiraz, Australia: soft and ripe with red raspberry flavors;
• 2005 Turning Leaf Cabernet Sauvignon, California: black cherry and black coffee
flavors, ripe tannins; $12.99.
• 2005 Fetzer Vineyards Valley Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon, California: firm tannins, black
plum flavors; $12.49.
• 2006 Beringer Founder’s Estate Chardonnay, California: rich, crisp and fruity, with ripe pineapple flavors; $12.99.
• 2007 Woodbridge Chardonnay by Robert Mondavi, California: lean, lemony and crisp; $13.99.
• 2007 Frontera Merlot by Concha y Toro, Chile: soft and sweet with black cherry
• 2006 Placido Pinot Grigio, Italy: crisp apricot flavors; lively; $15.29.
• 2007 Bolla Pinot Grigio delle Venezie, Italy: peach and apricot flavors; $14.99
• Nonvintage Rene Junot Dry White Table Wine (50 percent chenin blanc, 30 percent
sauvignon blanc, 20 percent chardonnay), France: light, slightly sweet; lemons and