The ubiquitous term “size matters” presents itself to us in areas where it doesn’t matter, and some where it does. You are mistaken if you think I’m going to explore the urban legend of the origin of that phrase, as tempting as that is. This is a family showkinda. You assumed correctly, however, if you thought this column was out to promote the enjoyment of hedonic Bigass wines.
But, my wine enjoyment history reveals very consistent, documented schizophrenia; being a fan of all makes and models of wine. So, I am again stuck admitting that I just as much fondly embrace wimpy wines. The reasons for my no-cut treatment of wine styles and flavors are as subjective as it gets, reduced to the one excuse your parents would never let you use: “because.” Please let me justify my wishy-washy opinion.
I just love drinking the bejesus outta Bigass wines, because I use them as a beverage and not necessarily with food. “Waiter, please pour me a Bigass, powerful, buttery, extracted, toasty, alcoholic Chardonnay.” There’s nothing like those huge apple-pie, lemon custard, pineapple upside down cake mindblowers to drink. “And nothing to eat, Waiter, because I’m not buying your suggestion that a golden-giant Chardonnay would pair with halibut”... sorry. One or the other, but not together for this dude.
Let’s talk Bigass reda wine you need to lift with your knees and not your back. You know, the fruit is so bold, it smacks thoughts of the offspring of an overripe Bing cherry mating with Godzilla. Alcohol, wood, spice, cassis, viscosity, chutzpah... almost need to hit it like a catsup bottle to get it out... I love the muscularity, chocolate, cinnamon, allspice, clove, blackberry and currant jam along with more than hints of tobacco, olive and licorice. Wines to knock back where the thing to pair with the wine is the next glass of the same. The only thing I want to chew on when I have a glass of Bigass red wine is a cigar.
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And let’s not forget our third NFL lineman in terms of overwhelming weight and flavor: sweet wines. The much maligned sticky wine is not enjoyed by enough of us under 80 years old, in my view. They are liquid dessert, therefore, the handle. The concentration of fruit, acid and sugar in the dessert whites and the chunk-o-holic chocolate density of reds are explosive components. Of course, they (whoever “they” are) say dessert wines pair with this or that. No they don’t... they go in my mouth, alone, to chew on for a while. Limited visitors allowed.
At a party where a feeding frenzy is full-on at the wine table, label subjectivity will drain the most expensive bottle first, and the wimpy wine loses to the Bigass wine every time. But, pass the same wine around my dinner table, and I will drain the wimpy one first most every time, after I get my rightful share of the most expensive one, of course. I’m no fool.
International travel and judging national competitions with international entries allows me to review every kind of wine on the planet where my preferred consumption protocol is ratified. Recent restauranting in Portugal and Spain has punctuated by my desire to keep wines in their place; Bigass wines to drink, wimpy wines with food.
Some of the more modestly intense wines, like sparkling wine, dry Riesling, some rosés and a few others from time to time, bridge my gap for broad food pairing better than Bigass wines, even if it is a brut rosé and a steak. For me, it is better to have the wine be the follower, rather than the leader, and playing second fiddle in my mouth beats the alternative of getting food beaten to a pulp by a thug wine. Maybe it’s my perception that a lot of the Bigass wines are a little sweet, and my brain sets dryness as a condition precedent to clicking the “really like with food” button. It isn’t like I feel sorry for the less muscular wines; they just don’t manhandle the food.
I have tried, ladies and gentlemen, to change my mind. I have listened to pontification on the subject of wine pairing for over four decades and I admit to spreading this bunk that you can find a food to go with any wine. I admit the errors of my ways and I am going wimpy on you. I am not consuming any less Bigass wines, no ma’am, I am just using them as a liquid appetizer to set the stage for some food and a counterpart wine that play nicely in the old pie hole. And, while it can be argued that there are the times when the food calls for a sturdy wine counterpart, I suggest to you that the goal is to complement, not arrange for a Sumo wrestling match in your mouth. For me, to cast the wine in a subordinate role to food is the desired positioning and choreography.
So, this concludes another column from an old guy telling you he will drink anything I have a reputation to uphold, you know. And I hope you will ride with me on my soap box by enjoying Bigass and wimpy wines in their respective places; always in moderation; frequently.
-- COKE ROTH is an attorney who lives in Richland, Wash. He is an original member of Wine Press Northwest’s tasting panel. Learn more about him at cokerothlaw.com.