3L bottle

For both the decorative and novelty value, I am considering a 3L of one of my favorites. That said, if I owned it, I would almost want to display it in my cellar standing up. Would that be a big mistake NOT keeping it on its side?

It will last longer on its side because the cork won’t dry out. There are other alternatives:

  1. Buy a blackened and waxed blank from the winery.
  2. Buy a 3L, have a party and drink it, then have the bottle blackened and waxed or filled with another liquid, re-cork and wax.

I’ll disagree with Randy. It won’t dry out, if the outside humidity is kept decently humid (i.e. in a temp/humidity controlled cellar). If it were my bottle I’d stand it up for the simple reason of leakage. When you start getting to larger formats one has to start considering the pressure of the liquid inside exerts on the cork. That is why you tend to see so many larger formats with signs of seepage. The pressure on the cork is huge and the cork often can’t hold it over time when the bottle is laid on its side.

A bit of drift. Someone warned me recently that large formats don’t last as long as you might think. The reason for this is very few places bottle formats larger than a Magnum by machine. When done by hand, the amount of oxygen that is inside the wine is much higher than when bottled by machine. I am talking about the levels of oxygen dissolved into the fluid, not the head space under the cork. It made sense to me and absent any info about how the wine was bottled, I would be more leery about this issue than the cork leaking. BTW, he had test data to prove the dissolved oxygen levels were about ten times as high in hand bottled wines.

^This. Also, don’t have the bottle shipped via Air. The pressure difference on the plane ride can create seepage problems. We always recommend that big bottles be shipped via ground during temperate times of the year for this reason.

No need to worry, I’m too cheap for air shipping…ground all the way. FWIW, we are talking about a '13 Rhys Horseshoe Pinot.

Also, it is a temperature and humidity controlled cellar.

If your cellar has 70% Humidity or more, I think you will be OK storing the bottle upright. If your humidity is lower than 70% (or if you would like to be careful) it might make sense to periodically (maybe every 6 or 12 months) give it some time on it’s side before placing it back upright.

If the dissolved oxygen in the wine is low and the bottle is flushed of oxygen I don’t know how different it could be. If you’re siphoning, maybe, but pushing with intern gas via a flushed hose into a flushed bottle…

On our last bottling run we hand bottled some magnums and they came out of the exact same tank that was feeding the bottling line with the same dissolved oxygen levels. The winemaker for that label is pretty retentive and picky and is very chemistry minded and she made the call to hand bottle.


I store some of my magnums upside down in the box. Am I encouraging leakage? Experiences?

A couple of thought’s…

Instead of standing it up, keep it on it’s side with the label showing it’s a nice classy way to show it off.
Also you could have it standing up with a slight lean, that way the wine touches the cork if you’re worried about such a thing.

If we were discussing formats larger than the 3.0L, I might be tempted to buy this argument, or if one were dealing with hand-bottled double magums from the 70s (often 3.78Ls in my neck of the woods), perhaps. However, modern, boxed 3.0Ls are designed for storage on their sides, often with rope hand-pulls inserted into one end of the box for ease of sliding out, or hinges and latches for opening. As the bottles are packed for long-term storage as well, I will take the opinion of virtually all producers of double magnums over ours on this board. There is not enough extra pressure in a 3.0L to cause seepage problems. Extreme temperature variation and perhaps repeated resale and transportation of the bottles are more likely the seepage culprits…

Really, because I’ve had this specific discussion with producers from large companies who’ve done the research, not just some “I’ve got years of experience” thing (not saying you, but the wine trade in general loves to pull that card). 3L is the max they will now risk/bottle for this specific reason*. And even then they are very careful to make sure the bottles/corks seal perfectly (see below).

Another reason is the difficultly in getting corks that fit properly once you start getting to the larger diameters. A tiny bit off and you’ve got issues down the road once that cork starts getting older. A smaller producer may not notice the very slight difference or even care because it will still seal when new. But larger ones who have their own in-house cork testing labs do notice and often send back batches until they get the right ones.

*for any bottle designed to be laid down on it’s side

I am with you on the larger than 3.0L idea, and in fairness, most of my 3.0Ls (and there are not dozens of them, by the way) are not very old and mostly wines like Giacosa red labels and first-growth Bordeaux that have been pretty meticulously bottled and packaged…

For our first 5 vintages or so, we tried doing a few 3 and 6 liters. They were bottled and corked by hand.

I stopped making them as they are very expensive to do and at least half leaked over the first 6 months and became unsellable.

WOW! Half of them??

Great thread - never thought of the large format and pressure on the cork as being an issue, but now I’m even a bit worried about my mags…

I would expect that the ability to pull a vacuum while corking the bottle would be just as much to blame. I can imagine lots of mags and 3L leaking because, without a vacuum being pulled, there is a lot of positive pressure in the headspace, not so much the weight of the wine on the cork. Modern bottling lines all draw a vacuum at the corker, where even the minimal headspace in a 750mL is important. The cork is basically a piston that displaces it’s volume in air, and if the air pushes up the side of the cork it often draws wine as well. We cork our mags on our line and have a hand corker for 3L that has a venturi vacuum on it, but those types of hand corkers are not the norm.

So 3L bottles are safe as long as the winery has the correct equipment, right? Because I have a 6L 2009 Margaux in my cellar. I would be really pissed if that leaks

I’d say the larger worry comes from 3L+ bottles. The cork in those is typically a non-standard, larger size, so it often isn’t run through a bottling line, while most mags have a standard size cork. I’ve actually heard that the making of larger corks can be a manual process - so the margin of error is even greater.

Depending on the manufacturer, corks that are 2" or longer or corks for large format bottles are hand-punched versus punched by machine because it can be difficult to find a section of cork bark that is clean enough all the way through to pass muster. I think the problems are as much to do with that (the inconsistencies over such a large area of cork bark) as the variations in size.