Please, may I have more wine?

One of life’s small but piercing disappointments comes when you’re enjoying a holiday dinner with family and friends, and the wine you purchased for the gathering runs a little short.

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Suddenly you understand how poor little Oliver Twist felt when he raised his empty bowl of gruel in the workhouse mess hall, plaintively begging for more.

Now, wine geeks understand that this is one of the strongest arguments for maintaining a wine cellar, or at a minimum, a well-stocked wine rack in a cool part of the house: A wine collection means never having to say you’re sorry. Even just keeping three or four backup bottles of favorite everyday wines around is a good practice, and doesn’t require a serious investment.

Today, though, with the jingling bells and decked halls of the holiday season around us, let’s consider another, simpler approach: Stock up your winter feast table with a couple of oversize bottles!

You don’t have to go out and find an expensive, hard-to-get six-liter Methuselah or even a 15-liter Nebuchadnezzar, of course, although it can be fun to learn about all the oversize bottles with their traditional biblical names. Even a magnum (1.5 liters or two regular bottles in one large jug) may be more than you need to top off that last glass.

All the bottles

All the bottles, or most of them anyway. (From The Wine Cellar Insider’s helpful “Complete Guide to all Large Format Wine Bottles, Sizes and Shapes.“)

No, just prowl your wine shop for the occasional one-liter bottle. Just one-third larger than the standard 750 ml. bottle, the modern replacement for the similarly sized, slightly smaller “fifth,” it appears only slightly larger on the shelf, although you’ll notice its extra heft when you pick it up. That extra 250 ml of wine in the bottle, though, means one or two extra refills for the diners at your table, and that may just be enough to carry you through dinner without having to open another – or send someone running out to the liquor store.

We’ve enjoyed a couple of good wines in liter bottles this week. See below for my tasting reports on two good, affordable French red wines in oversize bottles: A dry, tart blend of the common Languedoc reds, and an earthy, interesting “natural” Beaujolais with no sulfites or any other additives used. Enjoy!

By the way, in case you were wondering, here’s a complete list of wine bottle sizes. The very large formats are rarely made.)
Split: 0.187 liters (one-fourth bottle)
Half: 0.375 liters (one-half bottle)
Bottle: 0.750 liters (one regular bottle)
Liter: 1 liter (one and one-third regular bottle)
Magnum: 1.5 liters (two bottles)
Jeroboam: 3 liters (four bottles)
Rehoboam: 4.5 liters (six bottles)
Methuselah: 6 liters (eight bottles)
Salmanazar: 9 liters (12 bottles)
Balthazar: 12 liters (16 bottles)
Nebuchadnezzar: 15 liters (20 bottles)
Solomon: 20 liters (28 bottles)
Primat: 27 liters (36 bottles)


The Cure for the Common Gift!

The Cure for the Common GiftAward-winning, handcrafted wines are a gift that will be savored and remembered. The artisan winemakers featured by The California Wine Club handcraft wines in ways that simply cannot be matched by corporate wineries. It makes a difference you can taste.
Each gift month will bring two award-winning, handcrafted wines from one of California’s best small wineries. A different winery is featured every month.
Plus, holiday gifts come with:
• Beautifully hand-wrapped bottles.
• A fun coaster set.
• A $25 Wine Credit.
• A VIP winery tour and tasting invitation.
• Uncorked®, our guide to the featured winery.
See Holiday Gifts

About The California Wine Club:
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Today’s Tasting Reports

As noted, today’s tasting features two affordable wines in liter-size bottles. They also both come from France, the topic of this month’s Wine Focus in our WineLovers Discussion Group, All the wines of France!

Yes, you read that right: It’s France, all of France, all France all the time for December Wine Focus!, from Alsace to Champagne to Burgundy, the Rhone, Languedoc and Bordeaux and the Loire and lots more smaller appellations in-between. Dig out your old favorites, explore rarities less known to you, and let’s see if we can discover that elusive character that places France at or near the top in production and reputation alike. You’re invited to read the conversations, join the discussion, and bring your own tasting reports. Click here to join in!


Côté Mas 2016 “Rouge Intense” Sud de France Pays d’Oc ($12.99/1 liter)

Côté Mas Rouge Intense

Dark reddish-purple all the way to a thin, clear edge. Mixed red fruits, with hints of pomegranate and cranberry, plum and raspberry, pleasant but not overwhelming. Bright red fruits carry over on the palate in a fresh, medium-bodied flavor with food-friendly acidity, 13.5% alcohol, and a soft touch of tannic astringency on the tongue. An attractive Languedoc blend of Grenache Noir (45%), Carignan (25%), Cinsault (15%), Merlot (10%) and Syrah (5%). U.S. importer: Esprit du Vin, Boca Raton, Fla. (Dec. 6, 2017)

FOOD MATCH: Really a meat-eater’s wine, good with steaks, burgers or chili or roast poultry, although you could make it work in a meatless match with hearty cheese-based dishes.

WHEN TO DRINK: It’s not a wine made for cellaring, but the large format and sturdy metal screwcap should hold it for a year or three.

This big bottle is a fine value in the lower teens, but note that many vendors offer it for significantly less;’s average retail drops to just $8.

Here’s an online visit to Domaines Paul Mas in Languedoc, the winery that produces Rouge Intense.

Find vendors and check prices for Côté Mas “Rouge Intense” on


Olivier Minot 2016 “La Boutanche” Beaujolais Gamay ($18.99/1 liter)

Olivier Minot

This interesting “natural” wine claims zero additives, including no sulfites. It’s a clear garnet color, reddish purple at the center and clear at the edge. Its intriguing scent is dominated by wild strawberries at first, then opens up to add a hint of Chambord raspberry liqueur. Strawberries and raspberries on the palate add tart red plums and an intriguing earthy minerality that evokes the scent of damp red clay. It’s light- to medium-bodied, but fresh-fruit acidity and soft but perceptible black-tea tannins round it out. Alcohol is not out of line, likely midway in the label’s generic 11-14% claim. Nicely balanced, a good food wine. U.S. importer: Selection Massale, Oakland, Calif. (Dec. 7, 2017)

FOOD MATCH: We enjoyed it with a bowl of lightly spicy, earthy chili beans made with pinto beans from Rancho Gordo. It would be a great match with grilled meats or poultry or spicy, but not overly fiery, Asian dishes.

WHEN TO DRINK: Based on its natural status and zero sulfites, along with the lighter-weight screwcap, I’m going to advise drinking this one up soon, enjoying it while its natural flavors are balanced and inviting.

VALUE: At this price for a liter bottle, there’s nothing to complain about.

Importer Selection Massale tells the story of this offbeat producer here.

FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: includes a couple of hits for the Olivier Minot in this longer list of French wines named “La Boutanche”.

Here’s a list of U.S. retailers that stock Selection Massale’s portfolio.


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