With the holidays in full swing, hosts Adam Teeter, Joanna Sciarrino, and Zach Geballe discuss whether magnums — 1.5-liter bottles of wine — are really a good option for dinner parties and other gatherings, or perhaps if they’re more trouble than they’re worth. Tune in for more.
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Adam Teeter: From Vine Pairs New York City headquarters. I’m Adam Teeter.
Joanna Sciarrino: I’m Joanna Sciarrino.
Zach Geballe: In Seattle, Washington I’m Zach Geballe.
A: This is the VinePair podcast Friday edition. Guys, what are you watching? What? I’m just very curious.
J: We, on the recommendation of Tim McKirdy have not stopped watching “Alone.”
Z: Are you serious?
J: The series. We watched Season 8, which was on Netflix, and then Season 7 and then we watched Season 1, and now we’re on Season 2.
A: You’re really into it.
J: We’re really into it. The premise of this show — it’s a History Channel show — where 10 contestants are pretty much dropped in the wilderness somewhere around the world, mostly in Canada so far with 10 items to survive for as long as they possibly can. They win $500,000 or $1 million if they’re the last person there. It’s really remarkable.
Z: When you say survive, you mean not give up, right? Not like they are letting the other nine people die, correct?
Z: It’s a very grim show. All of the sudden.
J: Sorry. They’re survivalists or they’re homesteaders and the idea is that they live out there and they hunt for themselves and they make shelter for themselves. There are weekly health checks. Otherwise, they’re just to make sure the people are still enough and healthy enough to be out there. Otherwise, they’re by themselves as the title suggests and they can tap out or quit whenever they want to. Otherwise, the idea is to be out there for as long as possible. Like I said, it’s just the ingenuity and resourcefulness of some of these contestants that is really impressive. Adam, obviously you’ve seen the show. Zach, I recommend it, but it’s amazing.
A: I watched Season 8 only and I enjoyed it, but I feel like it wasn’t, that one was — it was not the one to start with. It was boring. No one catches anything.
J: The land didn’t give them much in that one.
A: Tim keeps trying to encourage me that I need to watch a different season that’s more exciting because this one, literally the dude that put on the most weight before the competition makes it to the end. It’s like who can out-starve everyone else.
J: There was a lot of malnourishment and starving in that season because people weren’t catching enough or foraging enough.
A: They build log cabins and stuff. It’s crazy.
J: It’s amazing.
A: It really is crazy.
J: It’s impressive.
Z: I legitimately cannot believe that this is a show that you enjoy watching. It sounds a very small step up from the, I think extremely popular, it’s either Norwegian or Danish or some Scandinavian country show about stacking wood.
Z: There’s an actual real TV out there, guys. You don’t have to watch people not catch food.
A: What about you, Zach, what are you watching?
Z: The best thing that I’ve been watching lately — Caitlin and I have not finished, so no spoilers — is “Andor.”
A: I haven’t watched it.
J: We started watching this.
A: This is a “Star Wars” thing.
Z: It is a “Star Wars” thing in that it is an amazing TV show wearing a “Star Wars” suit.
A: Is this the one that everyone thinks is the best so far of all of them?
Z: Yes, by an enormous margin.
J: Oh, really?
A: Who did this one, Zach?
Z: Tony Gilroy. He also directed “Rogue One,” which was one of the ancillary “Star Wars” movies that I also thought was very good.
A: Oh. Isn’t it like about “Rogue One”? The guy.
Z: It’s a prequel. It tells his story of Cassian Andor. The thing about it that I love, and look, people can like Star Wars for a lot of different things. I don’t think Keith is currently in the room, but I’m sure he will hear this eventually. There are people who like the pew pew and the light sabers and the like whatever, and that stuff is fine and I liked that stuff when I was a kid. I think my biggest complaint about “Star Wars” more recently is there have been times when there have been “Star Wars,” things that feel like actual grown-up things and they’re for grownups and they’re not clear-cut, who’s good and who’s bad. They require you to do some critical thinking and then the fanboys go apesh*t. Then they remake “Return of the Jedi” and with the same basic plot beats and it f*cking sucks and it’s just like it’s fan service for the worst kinds of fans. “Andor” is not any of that. There’s no Jedi, there’s no force powers, there’s basically no starships. It’s super grimy and about revolt and rebellion and politics and oppression and fascism and it’s great and really cool and complicated and there are not a lot of — like, there are people who you root for some of it because they’re on screen a lot and maybe because you believe in the general ideology they espouse, but the characters — the hardest thing to do, I think in general in whether it’s film or TV, is to make characters who are “the villains” who are both compelling and feel like actual people. This show has several of them and that’s, I think, really difficult to do. Darth Vader is a beloved villain, but Darth Vader, especially in a lot of the “ Star Wars” sh*t is just the bad guy who does bad things and occasionally gets more personification than that and that’s cool, but most of the time it’s just like a bad thing and it’s a force of evil and is impressive and ominous and scary in that role, but isn’t particularly interesting. I think that’s the best thing that I have been watching lately. I have also been watching because there have been a lot of random times at day and night when I’m awake with my daughter that I watch — I’ve been watching “The Witcher,” which is a Netflix show which is not as good, but is fun. It has Henry Cavill as Geralt. It’s like, what if the grim dark “Superman” was actually in the right universe for a grim dark and also had really cool bright yellow catlike eyes and there’s monsters. It’s definitely not the deepest show, but it’s good at 4 in the morning when I’m like, “Why won’t my daughter sleep?” That’s it for me. How about you Adam?
A: Watching a few things. First of all, I know that Keith loves “Andor” too. He’s talked a lot about it to me, but I don’t know why I haven’t started. Mostly because I think — we’ve discussed this before — I don’t have a lot of my own shows. Naomi has her own shows that she’ll watch in the early morning, when she wakes up as she’s having a smoothie or something, she’ll watch 15 minutes of something. It’ll take four days to watch one episode, but in the morning because she’s a big reader at night, but then we’ll watch shows together. We’re watching, I think, three shows together right now that we’ll switch off “White Lotus,” which is great. The second season’s great. I’m enjoying it a lot. It’s almost over, two more episodes. We’ll see what happens, who dies, who knows? The second is we really like “Mythic Quest.” It’s really funny. It’s on Apple TV. It’s hilarious. Then the third, which is depressing, is “Fleishman’s in Trouble,” which is excellent. The acting is-
J: The book?
A: Naomi has worked with Taffy. The book was great and the show is very true to the book. I think that Taffy Brosner Acker, is her full name, was very involved in the show and so it’s very true to the book. It’s depressing, it’s about divorce. It is a depressing show and they’re both horrible, in their own ways, both the husband and the — it’s from his perspective, but they’re both horrible in their own ways. There are some scenes that are hard to watch, but it’s very well done.
J: I just don’t love Jesse Eisenberg.
A: He’s got a punchable face, but he’s very good in it.
J: What’s it on?
A: Adam from the OC plays his friend that he reunites with. He’s very good in it. I forget
Adam’s last name.
J: Adam Brody?
A: Yes. The cast is really good.
J: Yes, there’s Claire Danes and-
A: Yes, she’s the wife. They play husband and wife who are separating. She plays being horrible really, really well and he plays being the overintellectual mansplainer, gaslighter very well. At least at this point in time in the show, you’re on his side, but you’re not, you know what I mean? He at this point is a little bit more redeemable than her, but also horrible.
J: Those shows are always so hard to keep following when nobody is — you can’t sympathize with anybody.
A: Yes, totally.
Z: This is my complaint about much prestige TV is a show where no one is a bad person. There are enough bad people in real life both that I have to deal with and just know about, I don’t-
A: Come on, it’s literary fiction turned into TV. What do you think literary fiction is?
Z: It’s not always just that.
A: The characters are very nuanced, I guess. There’s a lot of depth to them, but yes, as adaptations go, it’s very well done. Now for another hot take: Magnums suck for entertaining.
Z: Defend yourself Adam.
J: That’s so funny you should say that because I feel like we were just talking about how they would be great for Thanksgiving and other things.
A: Yes. Maybe they’re not and-
J: What happened?
A: I think that what the magnum does is — I think the magnum is for a very specific time and it is for — the more that I’ve entertained with magnums, I think they’re great for by-the-glass programs at a restaurant that wants to be able to serve wine, maybe a nicer wine, but can get a better price when they bought the magnums of it. Cool. Whatever.
J: Does that happen often?
A: That’s COTE’s whole thing. It’s like all — buy glasses out of magnum.
A: I also think it’s a nice gimmick.
Z: Yes, I think it’s more a gimmick than a price saver. Having bought magnums, you don’t get a big — sometimes you pay more because the glass is more expensive, but often you’re paying essentially just double the 750 price.
A: Yes. I think it’s a gimmick and people are doing it by the glass, whatever, that’s fine. I think that the problem with the magnum is unless you’re with a bunch of people that know the wine or the winery, it’s an actual real commitment. The problem is you’re never going to open multiple magnums at once at a dinner party. Therefore there’s this— almost feels there’s this slog to get through the bottle to get to another bottle. What happened to me at Thanksgiving was, ultimately, I didn’t want to do that. There was a lot of wasted wine. I bought four magnums and we wound up with basically four half-consumed magnums because-
J: Because you wanted to move onto-
A: People were like, “Yes, I don’t really want to drink any more of the rosé” or “I don’t really want to drink any more of the Chinon.”
Z: You just brought the wrong wine?
A: No, I don’t think so.
J: What if you have 12 people?
A: I think it’s good, but you have to have all 12 people who are really in— the only wine that we finished was the magnum of Hirsch. Everything else was like “Ehh, I’m kind of sick of the Cab Franc now.” Or I think you have to be with a group of people that are really very, very much wine people who know the producer, are really excited about the wine, and can’t wait to drink multiple glasses of that wine. I think in most settings, that’s not the case. I think in most settings there are people who like to try a bunch of different wines, and 750s are much better for that. Cool. We’ll pour through the 750, everyone gets a 3-ounce pour of it with a 12-person dinner party, let’s move on to the next wine that everyone gets a taste and say they had a lot of fun tasting. I actually think that maybe magnums, as this cool party thing, are overrated.
J: Do you ever get a case of one wine?
A: For a party?
A: I think that also is kind of — I don’t know. This isn’t a wedding.
J: I guess so. I’ve known people to do that.
A: Would you like the red or the white? It’s not a wedding. It’s a dinner party. Part of what’s fun is that you get to taste multiple different things. I think maybe the magnum sucks. Maybe it’s great for weddings. magnums are great for weddings.
Z: I think that the thing about the magnum is there is an optimal-size gathering where it is a good choice, and it’s probably slightly larger than the average dinner party. If you think of a dinner party as six or eight people, I do agree with you, because — even eight people. A magnum is a full glass of wine, at least for everyone. You’re totally right. Unless it’s something so incredible that people just are like, “Oh, my gosh. I have to have more of this.” It’s hard to know that in advance sometimes. People might not want a full glass of anything. As you said, Adam, the point of some of those gatherings is you’re tasting six, seven, eight, nine different wines in an evening. You’re not having a full glass of each, otherwise, it would be a problem, but you might want to have a couple of ounces. The magnum is great for a slightly larger gathering. If you’re having 12, 16 people over and stretching a 750 across that many people, or even most of them, might be really difficult. In that sense, I think there is a place where a magnum fits, but it’s maybe less common than we’d like to talk about. It might be that there just isn’t that much utility. I also think the other thing that can work for a magnum as a one wine among a larger gathering or even a dinner party, but not only magnums. It might be that for the wine you see serving with the main course, you want to get a magnum of something because that way, if it’s going to be the one thing that you might want a full glass with, whatever your main course is, that might make sense to me and you before and after can proceed it with 750s. I agree that maybe rolling up with nothing but magnums does leave you in that bind when people are like, “Oh yes, the rosé was great, but I’m ready for something else.” Then you’re like, I have a full bottle’s worth of rosé left. What am I going to do with it?
A: There’s so much more rosé.
Z: That’s a bummer. No one likes to have wine that goes to waste or has to get turned into cooking wine or whatever. There’s ways to get some utility out of it. I think though the other reason that magnums are good, but it’s a very niche thing, is magnums do, I think, work if you’re looking to put wine away and have it for a special occasion and age it for a while, they age more slowly. It has to do with the amount of wine in the bottle versus the size of the opening, which is essentially the same as a 750, but there’s twice as much wine, so the wine will age a little slower or more gently, I guess, is a way to put it. Again, it’s cool to be the person who comes to a gathering a 20-year-old magnum of something, but that’s — who are we talking to? A fair bit of our audience probably specifically, hey guys, but most people even listening here and most wine drinkers, that’s not their life. They’re not buying magnums and sticking them away for 15 years so they can impress people in 15 years at a dinner party. If that’s you, cool. Our guests at vinepair.com you can invite us. We’ll come drink wine out of your magnums. I do agree that in the context of service in restaurants, it is a cool gimmick that people definitely respond to. It’s actually in that setting that I also think actually magnums are valuable, even just not as glass-pour vessels, but as things at the table. I can’t tell you the number of times that I had to convince larger gatherings, why don’t you get a couple of magnums of wine? You want everyone to have the same wine. It’s not a wedding, but it’s a gathering where you’re trying to serve 10 or 12 or 14 people and it’s less clunky to have a magnum or two magnums of red wine open than four bottles of red wine. Takes up less table space, it’s easier to have a sense for how much it has been poured, easier on service. Again, those are narrow applications. I do agree that they get talked about more than probably justified given their utility.
A: I guess that’s my point. It’s the celebratory bottle. You have brands that are now only going into magnum.
Z: Yes, I want to talk about that. What do we think of that, then? Do you think that the whole business model is going after the novelty of it and is that sustainable?
Z: Or will it be successful?
A: I think it’s a novelty. For me, I don’t see how often someone’s going to pull the magnum out.
Z: How often will you get that wine again? It can’t be your go-to wine if it’s only sold in magnums. Hirsch is lovely because you can get Hirsch 750 bottles. Then you can get a magnum and that’s amazing wine, but to have only magnums available to people, I feel like is making your wine for a very specific occasion only.
A: Yes. I think it’s impossible.
Z: Well, and I think the other piece of it is not only are you setting your wine apart and saying it’s only for this specific occasion and only for these kinds of wine drinkers, but you’re also putting a lot of stress on — a lot of people are not, if you have a wine fridge at home, magnums often don’t fit very well. If you want to— or have shelving, they don’t fit. I have magnums at home and I have to have a separate place that I put them because they do not fit. I think the one kind of wine or the two kinds of wine that actually work really well in magnums, they shouldn’t exclusively go into it, though, are high-end, I guess, but especially mid- or lower-tier sparkling wine and rosé. Despite your experience, Adam, I do think a magnum of rosé is not for the winter, but say in the summer can be a really fun thing to break out. It feels like a party. Same thing with, I don’t know, a magnum of Prosecco or something. I have some of those at home because they’re fun to bring to gatherings because the sparkling wine can sometimes run out quickly. It’s not a big deal to me if we don’t finish because it’s not that expensive a thing and it just feels celebratory, the size there does matter. I don’t know that I would — I don’t buy a lot of my high-end or more high-end wines in magnums because the opportunities I have to open a magnum of wine are relatively few and far between, and I am sure that I have many more of them than most people.
J: Yes, it feels very impractical.
Z: Plus they’re heavy.
J: They are heavy. I find them hard to serve from.
Z: The really big bottles are a nightmare. I’ve had to serve from-
J: Like a nebuchadnezzar?
Z: It’s more an act of weightlifting than it is an act of wine service. I’m unfortunately never any really bad experiences in terms of dropping or spilling a whole lot, but it’s a f*cking nightmare to serve out of those things, and whether that’s serving for someone else in a restaurant or just trying to serve them in, what I’ve brought them. Again, that’s just like, look at this thing I bought. Aren’t I great? Whatever. Some of us need to feel that way from time to time. It’s cool. 750 is a perfectly fine size for almost every application.
A: It’s a great size.
J: What did we have for the VinePair staff party this summer? What was that? A jeroboam?
Z: Which is a three-liter bottle for most of you who may not know of it.
J: What’s the nebuchadnezzar? That’s bigger, right?
Z: It is bigger, but I don’t remember exactly why. It’s also weird because there are slightly different definitions based on still wine versus Champagne, I think. I don’t remember. I used to have to memorize all this sh*t. I have gleefully forgotten most of it.
A: Fine. magnums suck and don’t suck.
J: No, I feel like we’re all on the same page. I don’t think anyone’s making a hard case for magnums.
Z: I think the way we came down is the right answer, which is very limited time and place. They should exist, but they’re not the secret to being the greatest entertainer of all time.
J: I think that’s a good way to put it.
A: With that-
J: Do not gift Adam a magnum.
A: No, I’ll take a magnum just I’m not going to bring it to a dinner party.
Z: He’s just going to sit at home and drink it all by himself
A: Out of a straw.
J: Tell us your thoughts about magnums.
A: Let us know, and we hit us at email@example.com and I’ll see you guys on Monday.
J: Have a great weekend.
Z: Sounds great.
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Thank you as well to the entire VinePair staff and everyone who’s been involved in making VinePair as special as it’s become. Thanks again for listening and we’ll see you next week.