Precept Wine is betting that wine drinkers will go for its large-format, oversized bottles. The bottles come in 1.5-liter and 3-liter versions, plus a Salmanazar, which holds 9 liters.
ANDREW BROWNE is betting on big being a thing.
The CEO of Seattle-based Precept Wine has built his company from nothing to the state’s second-largest wine producer in 13 years. He’s a visionary, and he believes large-format bottles could be the next thing in wine.
Large-format bottles are those oversized ones that contain the equivalent of multiple bottles of wine. A double-sized bottle is called a magnum and holds 1.5 liters of wine. A 9-liter bottle — known as a Salmanazar — represents a case.
One big wine
Browne Family Vineyards 2013 cabernet sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $75 (1.5-liter bottle) or $160 (3-liter bottle): A classic Washington cab, with aromas of dark chocolate, complex spices, plum and black currant, followed by rich flavors of dark fruit and hints of oak. It’s all beautifully balanced with just-right acidity and firm tannins through the lengthy finish.
Browne plans to focus his efforts on magnums, and here’s his thought process: During the past two years, Precept has surveyed about 75 wine distributors for their opinions on large-format bottles. Most said it’s a seasonal bottle, an item someone will purchase for a holiday party or a wedding. The problem with large-format bottles is that no wine companies invest in stocking them as an everyday purchase.
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That’s where Browne sees an opportunity. So he is committing to having magnums and double magnums of his premium Browne Family Vineyards cabernet sauvignon available all the time. And not just in his Walla Walla tasting room.
Imagine showing up at a dinner party with a big bottle of great cab. That will reflect well on you, and a magnum is a great size for six to 12 people to share over a memorable meal. Maybe during dessert, you’ll break out a Sharpie, and everyone will sign the bottle as a keepsake.
There are few spaces in the wine game that aren’t crowded, like large-format bottles. Most wineries bottle up a few magnums, double magnums, Salmanazars and even Melchizedeks (30 liters), primarily for wine-club members or charity auctions. Browne wants to take them mainstream. Imagine going to a steakhouse for a business dinner and ordering a magnum of cab for less than $150. Impressive and cost-effective.
Planning to buy Dad a bottle of scotch for Father’s Day? Browne wants to own Father’s Day, turning it into his Super Bowl with large-format bottles.
And here’s a fun fact: Wine ages better in large-format bottles. Because less wine is exposed to air in a magnum, the wine ages much more slowly. You should be able to age a magnum for twice as long as a regular 750-milliliter bottle. Browne, of course, wants you to age his wines from the store to your destination, then pop the cork.
Want to try a large-format bottle? Browne’s cabs should be available in wine shops, Costcos, grocery stores and on select wine lists now. And expect their availability to increase as wine lovers catch on to the beauty of large-format bottles.