More means less: Why a magnum of wine can be ideal for weeknights

When drinking a single glass at a time, bigger bottles stay better for longer, professionals say

Here’s a counterintuitive approach to your weeknight glass of wine: open a magnum – not to drink in one evening but to come back to over the course of several days, as you would with boxed wine.

A magnum is twice the size of a regular bottle: at 1.5 litres, it contains about 12 glasses of wine. Once you’ve opened a magnum and poured yourself a glass or two, you can simply pop the cork back in – or, even better, stock up on a few cheap, versatile wine stoppers. (We use these at home.)

Among wine professionals, magnums are considered to keep wine fresher, because the wine ages more slowly in a large bottle. Josh Begbie, the manager of a wine bar and restaurant in the Australian city of Melbourne, says the bigger bottles are underappreciated. “We often pour wines by the magnum at Bar Liberty, not just for the obvious theatrical reasons but to see how oxygen interacts with some of our wines,” he says. “A lot of the wines we serve, especially some that are made without any additional sulphur, love a bit of air and really come into their own on day two or three.”

A magnum can last over a week and comes guilt-free, because I don't need to rationalise opening a bottle when I only want a glass

Olivia Moore, owner of LOC Wine Bar and Bottle Shop in Adelaide, sees magnums as ideal for a home-drinking environment. A magnum gives “a broad look at how the wine changes over time, which I love”.


During lockdown Moore opened a magnum-sized 2019 Jacopo Stigliano Hiraeth Rosato, from Italy. At first she drank it chilled, ringing out the wine’s refreshing character – but then she left it out at room temperature. When she came back to it the next day, exhausted from delivering food and wine across the city and ready for a relaxing drink, she found the wine “softer, more rounded out – but still heaps of the fresh fruit was in there”.

Mike Bennie, who owns P&V Wine and Liquor Merchants, a Sydney off-licence, is “a big fan of getting to see the future life of a wine through the lens of magnums”. He says that, in magnum format, “wines age more slowly over time due to the lower oxygen-to-wine ratio in the bottle, as compared to standard 750ml bottles”. He adds that magnums can essentially work as house wine, “a drink-and-don’t-think-too-much option for wine consumption over a few days”.

Olivia Bunny of Boatshed Wine Loft, in Perth, agrees that the grand size “maintains and prolongs a wine’s vibrancy for longer once opened”. She has found that a large bottle “can last over a week and comes guilt-free, because I don’t need to rationalise opening a bottle when I only want a glass”.

It’s relaxing to know that a perfectly nice wine is already open, and that you can have a glass and simply return the bottle to the fridge for another night. In our house we also like to open a magnum of white wine, have a glass of that, put it in the fridge, then switch to a red wine – the way you’d do in a restaurant if you were ordering by the glass.

Magnums are definitely a bit niche – the bottles themselves are more expensive, and they often need to be filled by hand; shipping them is also pricey. Combined with generally low demand, this all means that producers tend not to offer many of their wines in this size. But they’re definitely worth trying out.