SommWine | Is the Trend for Big, Ballsy Red Wines (finally!) on its Way Out? Skip to content

Is the Trend for Big, Ballsy Red Wines (finally!) on its Way Out?


A colleague of mine recently wrote that he notices the trend for massive red wines is waning. Although I desperately want that to be true, I don’t see it happening and I want that change. I crave it.

What is a big, ballsy red wine?

Big, ballsy red wines are defined by their high alcohol levels of 14% abv or higher, by their high levels of extract from long maceration periods during fermentation, and by the judicious use of new, highly toasted oak barrels. Think of wines that are deeply coloured and maybe even opaque with loads of vanillin, and baking spices such as clove and nutmeg in the aromas and flavours of your wine.

The flavours that linger on the finish from these highly extracted wines tend to be the oak flavours mentioned above. By this I mean that the oak flavours persists longer in your mouth, long past any fruit flavours such as blackberry or plum.

Certainly, it’s because these flavours are so bold and easy to recognize that they are so popular among new wine drinkers. The baby boomer generation is also known for loving these styles of wine.



What's wrong with enjoying big, ballsy red wines?

In fact, there’s nothing wrong with it.

But, after taking professional wine classes, students quickly learn to dismiss these wines as lacking in finesse. Schools insist students rate these wines lower.

Why? because the wines can feel overly hot in your mouth from the high alcohol. We’re also taught that big, ballsy reds are not great for food and wine pairing due to the high alcohol, extract and oak.

Perhaps, most importantly, these wines are not the best candidates for long term ageability. When the oak flavours overpower the fruit, there will be no refreshing fruit qualities left to keep the wine delicious after years in a cellar. The oak instead, ‘dries out’ the wine.

Other wine trends that disappeared...


You would think that the trend for big, ballsy red wines would be finished in the same way that big, buttery Chardonnay craze moved into the ABC (anything BUT Chardonnay).

Or that these wines would disappear in the same way that Merlot sales crashed in favour of Pinot Noir after the movie Sideways.


Yet every night on the floor at the restaurant, people request huge wines.

Won't people eventually get bored of big reds and try something else? Why is it so easy for people to be monogamous when it comes to wine?

Ideas for wines that are the opposite of big, ballsy or red...

Burlotto Verduno

I love introducing Burlotto’s Verduna Pelaverga to people who, like myself, crave that something else. Aromatically rich with fresh strawberries and slight dried herbs.

Last night, I drank Villa di Corlo Lambrusco di Sorbara, the lightest of the lambruscos and, oh my(!) the juicy, tart fruit with a touch of bitter nectarine pit!

At my tasting group, I brought a white Rioja from Abel Mendoza, a dry full-bodied white with lots of caramel and baked apple. (pictured below)


abel mendoza viura 500x500

I know it’s not easy to buy wines you’re not sure you’ll like. In fact, it’s easier to just ‘go with what you know’.

And hey, my dad never changed the type of beer he drank until his doctor diagnosed him with high cholesterol. He just bought the lower alcohol ‘light’ beer of the same brand.

What do you think?

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SommWine | Is the Trend for Big, Ballsy Red Wines (finally!) on its Way Out?

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