Chow Town

Big wine bottles — a weighty issue

Updated: 2013-07-22T19:26:29Z

By DOUG FROST

There is something aspirational about the big, weighty wine bottle.

You’ve seen (or handled them) at some point: thick, dark glass enclosing wine from a place you’ve never heard of before, often with a fanciful name. Inside is a brooding wine with the sort of dense color, massive oak and intensity that betrays the loftiest of ambitions.

You rarely see these kinds of bottles in Bordeaux or Burgundy; they already have their reputation.

But Spain offers a few: the top tier of Bodegas Muga lovely wines is Torre Muga and the bottle could double as a dumbbell.

Argentina too has quite a few: Luca Shiraz and its companion Malbec connote their seriousness, one must presume, by requiring more effort to lift. It’s true; the wines are very good.

Hand of God ( Mano de Dios) is a new label to me and perhaps the makers decided to stand out from the crowd: the label is showy and the bottle as dense as the wine. But here too I would recommend the wine if you like your Malbec bold.

Napa Valley is no stranger to these sorts of packages. Despite the California wine industry’s vocal embrace of green issues, many still produce what might be regarded as needlessly heavy bottles, and they require more fuel to transport the same amount of wine. I’ve been accused in the past of overstating the matter, but the shipping costs (and fuel usage) can increase by a third or more with such wines.

The Italians deserve the blame, I suppose. They’ve been crafting designer bottles for decades, and it can be presumed that the goal was not only to make some beautiful bottles (these are Italian designers, after all) but to demand the wine world’s attention, particularly back in the day when France and Napa Valley got most of the press.

Is it a boycott in line? Doubtful.

Perhaps the opposite might be true: anyone with a heavy bottle is trying very hard to get your attention. Perhaps they’re trying just as hard to make a great wine and deserve a try.

Doug Frost is a Kansas City-based wine and spirits writer and consultant who for decades has happily educated the public about all things drink. He is one of only three people in the world to have earned the coveted titles of Master Sommelier and Master of Wine. He contributes a monthly wine column for The Star’s Food section.

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