Big Red Wine Time

Hello Friends,

I recently attended a wine tasting at a friend’s house where the tasting theme for the evening was big red wines. Such a theme can leave the playing field open for some, right? For a white wine or blush drinker, Pinot Noir may come across as big – at least some New World examples can. When someone says "big red wine", what do you think of? I tend to think of a flavorful, full-bodied, rich wine with good concentration and balance. Big red wines also tend to be a bit heady (alcoholic), even tannic, but balance is key. At this themed tasting, each of us was asked to bring a big red wine, and it was no surprise that two of the four wines were Cabernet Sauvignon.

Other grape varieties known for making big red wines include Zinfandel, Nebbiolo, and Syrah, etc. Here in Virginia, Petit Verdot is gaining popularity as a varietal wine and in good vintage years can produce a big red wine with deep color, solid tannins, and good structure. If you are hunting for a Virginia Petit Verdot allow me to point you to the North Gate Vineyards 2008 Petit Verdot. This selection just won a gold medal at the 2010 Virginia Governors Cup competition and can be found for under $20 at the Leesburg Vintner. Below are the wines tasted and the order we tasted them in:

Reds or Big Reds?

  • 2003 Roureda Llicorella Priorat ~ Not sure if I would call this a big red, but it is a nice wine with red fruit, anis, and sweet tobacco leaf aromas. On the palate the wine is smooth and velvety with good fruit and subtle earthy flavors. If I had any of these cellared I would think about drinking them soon. This is definitely a nice intro to Priorat wines. 
  • 2007 Joseph Carr Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley ~ This wine was fuller in body, but not overly “big”. The Joseph Carr is an easy-drinking, fruit-forward style of Cabernet Sauvignon that’s a nice value selection at around $22. It offered currant and blackberry aromas in a smooth and silky, yet structured wine.
  • 2006 Larkmead Napa Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley ~ This is an aromatic, full-bodied, elegantly-styled, and complex wine. This selection offered dark fruit, mineral, smoke, and cocoa notes, complimented by good balance, a solid structure, ripe tannins, and a long lingering finish.  
  • 2004 Selvanova Silicata Aglianico ~ Aglianico is a high quality Italian variety known for big tannins and concentrated flavors. We decanted this wine for 45 minutes prior to tasting, but it could have used more time. This wine was big, meaty, and chewy with licorice, black pepper, spice, and cedar notes. This is definitely not a sipping wine, but a wine to pair with hearty fare. 
Sometimes it's best to decant or aerate a "Big Red Wine"

In closing, we swirled, sniffed, sipped and enjoyed these wine selections over great conversation and fine nibbles. It is always good tasting with others and bouncing thoughts off of another person’s eyes, nose, and palate. So let’s hear what runs across your palate when someone says “big red wine.” Have a question about this post, friends? Feel free to leave a comment or send me an e-mail at , and as always, Happy Sipping!

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