Big Head
Revisting the Niagara Wine region, Canada, part 4


big head wines
Andrjez and Jakub

Big Head has a remarkable story behind it. Not least the name: Polish people, apparently, have big heads, and owner Andrzej Lipinski and his family are from Poland. And their heads are actually quite big. I tasted with Jakub, his son, who told me the story, and later we were joined by Andrezj.

Andrzej came to Canada in 1989, followed by the rest of his family in 1991. He was a mechanic by trade, and when he arrived he began working on farms, doing whatever he could do. He got a construction job at Vineland winery and helped renovate a house on the property. During the harsh winter of 1993/94 there wasn't a lot of construction work so he got a job in the cellar, helping out winemaker Brian Schmidt.

Andrzej took to winemaking easily, and within two years he'd become assistant winemaker. In 1998 he was allowed to make one wine of his own, and he chose Chardonnay. This is because it is a blank canvas for a winemaker, and he wanted to use oak. The fruit came from Romans Road Vineyard, and Andrzej's meticulous approach resulted in a wine that won a gold medal at Vinitaly.

He worked at a range of wineries, and in 2011 one of the three wineries he was working at backed out of a Chenin contract at the last minute. So he decided this was the time, bought the grapes, and Big Head began. This was a virtual winery at first: the rules made it difficult to get a license without any owned vines. But they moved to their current location and got a winery licence in 2015. They focus on geeky whites, sparkling wine and reds with some appassimento.


The cellar is interesting for its relative lack of small oak. Instead there are 1000 litre barrels imported from the Veneto and 2000 litre concrete eggs (also from Italy). They like to do tastings blind because they find that some people are put off by the alternative varieties until they try them. Production was 1300 cases in 2012 and for 2016 will be 15000 cases.


Big Head The Big Bang 2012 Niagara, Canada
This is a sparkling wine made from Pinot and Chardonnay. Lovely texture with fine plums, citrus and a hint of cherry, with some nice peachy richness as well as a hint of apple. Rich but fine. 92/100

Big Head The Big Bang Black NV Niagara, Canada
This spends 26 months on lees, and it's a blend of 2013 and 2014, varietal Pinot Noir. Lovely fruit: fine, expressive and very full flavoured with pear and ripe apple. Quite viscous with nice finesse and richness allied. 92/100

Big Head The Big Bang Gris 2015 Niagara, Canada
One year on lees. Complex and intense with baked apple, spice, pear and a bit of citrus. Lovely direct fruit here with real finesse and a lively fruity finish. 91/100

Big Head Pinot Gris 2016 Niagara, Canada
50% left on skins for 12 h. Has some colour. Really textural and soft with a nice mouthfeel and flavours of ripe apples and pears. Good balance and personality. 91/100

Big Head RAW Pinot Gris 2016 Niagara, Canada
Made in concrete, unfiltered, no skin contact. So textured and beautiful with sweet pear fruit and some table grape notes. Has a smooth, mineral texture and a nice mouthfeel. Shows incredible texture, with tangerine and spice on the finish. 94/100

Big Head Chardonnay Stainless 2016 Niagara, Canada
From 33 year old vines. Lovely personality: very lively with ripe apple and pear, and some spice. Rich and textural with nice finesse and personality. 92/100

Big Head Old Vines Chardonnay 2015 Niagara, Canada
There's some nicely integrated oak here. Attractive citrus and pear fruit with real finess and an appealing spiciness. Some mealy, toasty richness, too. 92/100

Big Head Chenin Blanc 2016 Niagara, Canada
Chenin here always has some botrytis, and this is very textural with pear and apricot notes and nice spiciness, as well as some nuts and straw. Good acidity and a tangerine edge. 92/100

Big Head RAW Chenin Blanc 2016 Niagara, Canada
100% botrytis, 24.6 Brix. Concrete fermented, and dry. So complex: rounded and smooth but with a spicy edge and notes of marmalade and tangerine, with some melon and citrus. So intense and textural, and full of interest. 94/100

Big Head Chenin Blanc BA 2014 Niagara, Canada
With 36 g/l residual sugar. Sweet, complex and very spicy with nice melon and marmalade notes, and lovely richness. Broad and expressive. 92/100

Big Head Savagnin 2016 Niagara, Canada
50% appassimento. Supple with nice citrus and pear fruit. Fruity and expressive with nice purity and a bright finish. 92/100

Big Head RAW Savagnin 2011 Niagara, Canada
Very textured with spice and citrus fruit, as well as pear and apple and some herbiness. Fine with lots of personality. 93/100

Big Head Gewurztraminer 2016 Niagara, Canada
Highly aromatic with lovely grape and spice notes, as well as the trademark lychee. Some sweetness and nice definition. 92/100

Big Head Pinot Noir 2016 St David's Bench, Niagara, Canada
Concentrated with sweet fruit and a bit of cedar spice. Nice fruit with appealing savouriness. 89/100

Big Head Pinot Noir 2015 St David's Bench, Niagara, Canada
A bit malty and developed with nice texture to the fine grains cherry and berry fruits. Has a mellow depth to it. 88/100

Big Head Red 2016 Niagara, Canada
A blend of Cabernet Franc (50%) with the rest Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot. Lovely intensity of fruit with power and freshness. Sweet cherry and berry fruits with a spicy, savoury twist. 90/100

Big Head Select 2016 Niagara, Canada
Petit Verdot (40%) with Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Just over half is appassimento. Very lively with nice weight to the bold, sweet berry fruits. Nice intensity and depth with good acid and firm tannins. 93/100

Big Head Select Bigger 2015 Niagara, Canada
This is Cabernet Franc and Merlot, dried on racks for 2 months. Very concentrated and dense with savoury, spicy black fruits. Has a savoury, cedary twist and it's sweet and juicy with lots of dimensions to it. 92/100

Big Head Black 2014 Niagara, Canada
This is a blend specifically for the wine club. It's a red blend that's all appassimento. So concentrated and sweet with real power. Has sweet brooding aromatics and a fine spiciness in the mouth with delicate herbal notes. Lovely mineral core. Fine and expressive. 94/100

Big Head Cabernet Franc 2015 Niagara, Canada
Seamless, brooding and rich, this has full appassimento. Nice spiciness with fine-grained structure with lovely elegance allied to power. 93/100

Big Head Riesling Special Select Late Harvest 2016 Niagara, Canada
10% alcohol, 157 g/l sugar. Concentrated, sweet and lively with nice richness. Fine spices alongside sweet citrus, grape and honey flavours with lovely weight. 93/100

Big Head Riesling Ice Wine 2014 Niagara, Canada
217 g/l sugar. This was for sale at $68 but they raised the price to $108 and sold a case in a week! Very powerful, spicy and intense with marmalade, apricot, pear and spice, as well as great acidity. So pure and expressive. 95/100


Pearl Morissette
Hidden Bench


Closson Chase
Huff Estates
Rosehall Run
Norman Hardie

Wines tasted 09/17  
Find these wines with


Back to top