You have probably already heard the stories or seen the pics of Jay-Z and Beyoncé pouring large bottles of Champagne into hot tubs and onto club-goers. The now-iconic Armand de Brignac “Ace of Spades” Champagne, which is owned by Jay-Z and retails for $300 a bottle, is not your average Wednesday-night, takeout-and-Netflix wine. It’s oversized and symbolizes celebration.
Now, Italian winemakers are angling to get in on the living-large lifestyle. Two leading Prosecco brands, Altaneve and Mionetto, are introducing jeroboams in hopes of elevating their sparklers to pour-to-impress status. At almost two feet high, a jeroboam towers over a regular bottle, which clocks in at about 12 inches.
This is a decisive move. While Champagne is indelibly tied to the grand history of the region and its storied houses, Prosecco has typically enjoyed a more democratic reputation in the United States. It’s the people’s sparkler, costing about one-third the price of entry-level Champagne. For many drinkers, a bottle of Champagne is what you’d bring to a party, and Prosecco is what you’d buy to watch television.
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Altaneve and Mionetto want to change that. The companies are betting that a large, eye-catching format could help consumers associate their wines with luxury. “Our first production run in the early spring of 2013 included an entire container of them,” David Noto, Altaneve’s owner, says. “Customers love the three-liter bottles for the impact they make.”
Both companies want to attract more millennial consumers to the Prosecco category. Younger consumers often “equate larger with better,” Noto says. In the age of Instagram, everyone is looking for a way to stand out on the feed.
He recalls a party his friends threw in Las Vegas where five large-format bottles of Champagne appeared for the festivities, each costing thousands of dollars. “This moment sold me on the idea to have large-format bottles to attract the younger U.S. consumer — one that likes to show off,” Noto says.
“For selfish, showy reasons, three-liter bottles are fantastic,” Noto says. “They represent opulence, signify a party or a significant occasion, and always make an impression whenever presented or poured.”
But Altaneve and Mionetto are both quick to point out that there are actual enological reasons to bottle Prosecco in large formats.
For starters, a larger bottle benefits the quality of the wine. Wine tastes fresher in three-liter bottles, and freshness is especially important for sparkling wines like Prosecco. Both Mionetto and Altaneve bottle jeroboams to order in hopes of preserving freshness.
A larger bottle also means that wine ages more slowly, keeping drink-now wines, such as Prosecco, fresher until popped. That’s also why many large-format red wines will taste younger than wines stored in 750-milliliter bottles from the same vintage.
“Wine is a natural, living substance that stores and ages better in larger volumes,” Noto says.
The jeroboam’s dimensions also make it well-suited to events. It’s the biggest large-format bottle that can be “elegantly poured” at a dinner party, club, or other gathering, says Noto, who hand-tested several different big bottles before settling on the jeroboam.
Champagne brands have known this for years. They have historically sold large-format bubbles to restaurants, clubs, and beachside hangouts to groups of guests to share, and the massive bottles have also surfaced at celebrations, from birthdays to weddings.
“When we look at the sparkling wine category, including Champagne, many of the established brands offer a three-liter bottle,” Enore Ceola, Mionetto’s chief executive officer and managing director, says. “In the Prosecco market, however, we really saw a gap in large-format bottles.”
Mionetto launched three-liter versions of its popular Prestige Collection Brut Prosecco earlier this year.
“If you’re looking to impress your guests, especially with summer fast approaching, the three-liter is the way to go,” Ceola says.
The psychological aspect — to impress, flaunt, make a jaw drop, and maybe even incite jealousy — is the underlying success of big bottles of bubbles, both brands agree. It’s that behavior that helped jet Ace of Spades to the top of the must-drink list, after the hip-hop community aligned it with luxury.
Altaneve’s most popular markets for large-format bottles are, naturally, the Hamptons, New York City, and Greenwich, Conn. “When restaurants carry these bottles for their brunch, beach, or other parties, they fly off the shelves,” Novo says.
You can’t bottle a good time, of course. But it’s worth a try.