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BERGER: Big bottles are trouble

One definition for "magnum" is a double-size bottle of wine, and it has come under scrutiny recently as one important size for wine collectors, notably at wine auctions.

But even bigger bottles are even rarer and more sought-after. Dedicated wine collectors love wine auctions where they can bid on magnums and larger bottles. Many of these are charity affairs, often with black-tie dinners attached.

Wine is liberally served at various places in the venue because a well-lubricated bidder is more likely to raise a bidding paddle than one who's had only water.

The biggest attraction at these festive events is the giant-sized bottle. A double magnum or jeroboam may be the prize of the charity set, but I see it as the albatross for wine collectors.

Imagine the imperial, nowhere near the largest of bottles, residing unassumingly in its cozy wooden chest, lid in place. This innocent bottle filled with wine is a chamber of horrors, a destroyer of marriages, a latter-day Excedrin headache No. 3. No one tells bidders that a mental stability test is recommended before buying one of these monstrosities.

Imagine this scenario: The bidder at a charity wine auction sees a nine-liter bottle, a whole case worth of fine cabernet, in an auction catalogue. Sure, the price is high, but what a prize to show off. It'd blow away his neighbor the wine snob. And he can get it for a donation to the worthy cause hosting the auction, which includes a tax break.

He is willing to pay $1,200, but something goes haywire. He gets caught up in Bidding-Room Frenzy, more addicting than heroin. And he ends up with the bottle for a sum he knows will be harder to swallow than the wine. His tribulations are just beginning.

After paying for this prize, he realizes the bottle could wind up costing him the price of back surgery if he tries to move it to his car by himself. After trying to figure out how to even grab hold of this leviathan, he asks a friend for help.

Walking sideways through the parking lot, they meet Sgt. Rent-a-Cop., who asks who's in the box. It is then that the winning bidder realizes his box looks like a coffin.

Once home, his spouse asks, "You paid HOW MUCH for this?" Once the tension has eased, the bidder now tries to get this thing into the wine cellar. It doesn't fit. Under the coffee table? Nope. If used as a plant stand, it must be stood on end, but to keep the cork moist it is neck down. That makes it top-heavy. It crashes to the floor.


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