Here's to the start of the British social calendar where golden moments abound at Henley, Royal Ascot, Wimbledon and Lord's stretching across the summer. For big social occasions such as these, or indeed when you're at home entertaining with an informal Sunday barbecue or a full-on summer party, a great way to lavish your nearest and dearest with bottled splendor is with excellent wines poured from larger format bottles. The larger your bottle, the slower your wine evolves, which gives elegance and also a superlative sense of theatre to a special occasion. In fact some bottles get so big, you may need a small team of fellow wine fans to help you pour! Here's my handy chart:
- 750ml is a standard bottle of glorious wine. Fits in the hand and in the fridge door like a glove. Genius.
- A Magnum is a double standard bottle with 1.5 litres of joy inside. Target those tastebuds with a double dose of excellence!
- A double Magnum is four standard bottles (3 litres) and perfect for a party. If you're chilling it, water and ice combined in a sink or bucket s your best bet for a top result.
- A Jeroboam is six standard bottles (4.5 litres) and before meddling with one, worth visiting the gym to get some practice on the weight pile. Boom!
- An Imperial is a whopper of eight standard bottles unleashing 6 mighty litres of sheer vino into your life in a single dose. Huzzah!
- A Salmanazar is not a wizard from Harry Potter, it's a giant bottle of vino with twelve standard bottles worth of wine. That's 9 litres. And if your name is Hagrid, it's called an aperitif.
- A Balthazar is sixteen bottles or 12 litres and is a vessel of splendour to crack when your entire family and friends descend at the same time boasting the thirst of a race horse.
- A Nebuchadnezzar is frankly ludicrous and I love it for its sheer madness. Twenty bottles or 15 litres of wine in one serving just makes my heart sing to even think about. If you invited your entire neighbourhood round for drinks, this is the perfect bottle to deploy and spoil them rotten. But you'll need a crane or several burly friends to lift it!
Of course, at the other end of the sipping spectrum, wines by the glass are a splendid way to revel in the perfect pairing with your food or mood. In summertime for an aperitif, rosé is the drink of the gods and Provence in the south of France produces some delicately scented pale gems such as Château D'Atros on the Hotel du Vin's list. For summery whites, think of the coast with wines such as Baron de Badassière from peachy beachy vineyards in the Languedoc or a glass of cool refreshing Spanish Albariño - try the zesty work of Condes de Alberei served at Hotel du Vin. As for reds in the summer season, I love light bodied reds served chilled such as La Madone Fleurie in the Hotel du Vin or for something a little meatier and off the beaten track, try Pittnauer's Zweigelt Blaufrankisch 'Velvet' from Austria. And of course for a sense of occasion and no need for a corkscrew if you're al fresco or sharing a picnic, there's always a top notch bottle of fizz to consider for this year's social calendar. Go on, pop yourself a beauty!