Big Wine, Big Booze

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By Robert Farmer


An ongoing debate among my wine-drinking friends and me is centered on the nature of so-called "big" red wines. Those who know me know that I like Big. Not saying I prefer big wines exclusively, but given the opportunity, I will call up something chewy, something that packs a punch, something with a more than a little heft. Typically that means I go for a substantial California Cabernet. But increasingly, big wines are being bottled in a number of varietals, and the phenomenon -- like so many other trends in wine - is causing it's fair share of controversy.

For most big wines, the largesse also translates to a high alcohol percentage. And therein lies the problem, in the estimation of many wine snobs. It's more common these days to find wines that edge past 14 percent alcohol, and some industry purists say that's just wrong. The so-called "hot" wines are antithetical to the wine-drinking experience, says some. But producers of these wines argue that leaving their grapes on the vine longer to produce wine with more intense flavor has its necessary byproduct - higher sugar levels that result in higher alcohol. The higher alcohol wines will of course mean the ability to imbibe less or invite a big drunk experience or, perhaps worse, a big hangover.

So, my recommendation is simple moderation, which is the name of the game after all, isn't it?

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