Quick! What do Morpheus' space ship in the Matrix movie series and a 15 litre wine bottle have in common?
They’re both named after Nebuchadnezzar, the king of the neo-Babylonian Empire who reigned circa 605 BCE – 562 BCE. While we can be pretty certain that Morpheus’ ship was named after the Baylonian king because of the symbolism of his dream as interpreted by Daniel – he foresaw the destruction of four world empires over time – we’re not clear why the 15 litre, and so many other large format wine bottles are named after biblical figures, for example Jeroboam – 3 or 4.5 litre; Rehoboam – 4.5 litre; Methuselah – 6 litre; Mordechai and Salamanzar – 9 litre; Belthazar – 12 litres; all the way up to Melchizedek at 30 litres. This list is probably not exhaustive, but it gives a good indication of what is out there.
Most of us are unlikely to encounter anything much larger than a 1.5 litre Magnum, the large format bottle most commonly seen in wine shops and bottle stores. If you venture out into the winelands, and frequent tasting rooms, you’ll likely see many more of the larger sizes, some of which will be filled with wine, some not.
Question is, are they just a curiosity, a marketing gimmick ,or is there some good reason why wine is put into such bottles? Does it mature better or quicker for example?
The experts will tell you that wine in fact matures more slowly, because of the greater oxygen to wine ratio in the larger format bottles. Another way of looking at it, albeit somewhat quaint, is that the larger bottles afford the wine more “room” in which to grow, and depending on who you speak to, there is more than a grain of truth in the legend.
Jörg Pfützner, who knows how to organise a classy wine bash, is arguably the foremost proponent of the large format wine bottle, which he showcases during his annual Big Bottle Festival. This year’s event will be no exception, with an impressive list of producers taking part, including but not limited to the likes of Almenkerk, Bouchard Finlayson, Crystallum, Chabivin MCC, Pol Roger Champagne, Iona, Lammershoek, Mullineux Family Wines, Sadie Family Wines, Steenberg, Tokara and Waterkloof taking part.
Taking place this year at The Cellars Hohenhort, the festival kicks off on Friday August 24 with a five course dinner where some remarkable wines will be poured to accompany the fabulous cuisine. If you’ve got R1850 per person to spare, you’ll be able to savour the likes of a 2005 Domaine de Chevalier Blanc (Jeroboam) a 1989 Chateau Meyney St-Estèphe Bordeaux (Imperial), a 2008 Clemens Busch vom rotem Schiefer Mosel (double Magnum) and many others. It’ll be a long but worthwhile haul working your way through these and the other premium wines you’ll be served.
An interesting addition to the Big Bottle Festival this year, is a tasting of unique offerings from small scale producers in France’s Champagne region. As Pfützner puts it: “You can of course drink Champagne made by one of the really big houses, those who produce 80% of output, from only 12% of the vineyards, but it is the small scale producers that make the really spectacular stuff. It’s like comparing furniture made in a large factory with furniture made by a skilled carpenter. Which would you rather have?”
The champagne tasting, which precedes the dinner of Friday evening, will afford you the privilege of sampling the likes of Jacques Lassaigne N/V Blanc de Blancs Cuvée Le Cotet Montgueux Extra Brut, Moncuit, 2002 Moncuit Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Marie-Noëlle Ledru, 2002 Marie-Noëlle Ledru Brut Nature Grand Cru, 2006 Marie-Noëlle Ledru Blanc de Noir Cuvée du Goulté and 2000 Marie-Noëlle Ledru Brut Grand Cru amongst others. At R1290 per person, it is a fitting precursor to the Friday evening dinner, and if you do both, the Saturday event will be thrown in free of charge.
The Saturday walk-around tasting takes place from 15h00 to 21h00 on Saturday, where the wines on offer will be grouped (loosely) according to the following styles: modern classics, Champagne and sparkling wines, wines of elegance and wild ferment wines.
Some of our top celebrity chefs will be in attendance, and as you wander about from stall to stall tasting wine, you’ll be able to keep the hunger monster at bay by sampling an array of sumptuous canapés and small dishes. Look out for Peter Tempelhoff of The greenhouse (SA’s top chef currently), Rudi Liebenberg from The Nellie, Roland Gorgosolich of Bosman’s at The Grande Roche, Luke Dale roberts of The Test Kitchen, Reuben Riffel of Reuben’s and Scott Kirton of La Colombe. With a line-up like that, how can you possibly not be there? See you there during the walk around tasting!
Call Jörg Pfützner on 072 467 5943 or email him on email@example.com for further information, or to make a booking. More information on the festival can be found at www.bigbottle.co.za. Tickets to the events can be purchased at Web Tickets.