Big bold reds |

Big bold reds

David K. Gibson
Special to The Aspen Times
Local Spirits in Aspen, Wednesday, Feb 9, 2005. Aspen Times photo/Mark Fox

Pity the poor wine drinkers of the tropics, pairing their fresh mango and grilled opakapaka with some crisp, fruity white, day in and day out. How they must long to exchange their sarongs for some nice wool sweaters, dig into a bowl of venison stew, and sip a wine they can actually sink their teeth into.

In our mountain climate, we’ve got a good eight months of weather perfect for the consumption of big red wines, and with a local cuisine that favors game above anything that ever saw a barnyard, we’ll never run out of perfect pairings.

“Bigness” in red wines is the product of two components: intensity of flavor (most commonly big spice or earthiness) and body. Big-bodied wines, rather simply, feel heavier and thicker on the palate because of high levels of glycerol, dissolved solids and (quite often) a high percentage of alcohol. If you want a wine that works with a fat, red steak, the logical choice is a fat, red wine.

When winter rolls in, Rose Manzo, a partner in The Wine Spot wine bar at the Grand Hyatt, reaches for LiVeli Negroamoro. This ruby red concoction hails from Puglia, one of the oldest wine growing regions in Italy, and one which is enjoying a renaissance, thanks to investment from Tuscan producers.

“Go big when you’re pouring this wine,” says Manzo. “It calls out for steak.” LiVeli runs about $24 at Local’s Corner, and is available by the glass at The Wine Spot.

Roger Carlsen of the Grog Shop heads north to France for Gigondas by Guigal, which sells for about $33.

“It’s got an elegant character, with spice and finesse,” he says. “This wine is layer upon layer of flavor.” Gigondas is one of those wines that deserves the descriptor “chunky,” and one taste will make clear why Guigal is one of the most respected producers in the Rhone.

Carlsen is also a fan of Australia’s Green Point Shiraz for $20 (Australians, a hard-headed lot, insist on calling Syrah “Shiraz”). This is a wine that has developed spicy notes in a varietal most famous for big berry and oak flavors.

Walt Harris of Syzygy is also on the Syrah train.

“It’s a grape that’s been trying to find its way,” he says. ì”A lot of the California makers have been making fruit bombs, but I like the gamier ones, with tastes of earth and bacon. They’re as good with salmon and ahi as they are with meat.”

But given his druthers, Harris pours Araujo Cabernet Sauvignon, a wine that “rarely disappoints ” It’s big on the palate but drinks smoothly.” It’s also in limited release, so be prepared to lay down some of your larger denominations for a taste.

At Takah Sushi, the fare isn’t typically “wintery” ” it leans, quite obviously, to the lighter cuisines of the Pacific Rim. “Most wines for this cuisine are soft and lush,” says general manager Ron Lambert. “But people still crave heavier meals, like our Kobe beef or our whole crispy Chinese duck, and for that they need a big red.” The spice of dishes like blackened tuna is nicely echoed by the spice in a wine like Turley Dogtown Zinfandel, priced at Takah at $95 for the 2002.

For Craig Courdts-Pearce of The Wild Fig and the newly opened D-19, the taste of big winter reds is the taste of Barbaresco. “Ornelia and Gaia are two of my favorites. They are big, bold, dirty wines that just taste like Italy to me.”

“This is the perfect wine for winter,” says Courdts-Pearce. “It will warm your soul.”

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