What is New World Wine?

Before answering this question, I thought I would summarize what is “Old World Wine“. Old World wine, strictly defined, are wines produced by historically the wine producing regions of Europe. France, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain would be the top producers of Old World wine. Old World wine is also about a style and a mentality about the land. In the Old World, you hear about “terroir“, and how terroir drives which grapes are grown in a region. Another aspect of Old World wine, is tradition. Traditions help us learn from the past so that we do not have to go through the learning process that our ancestors have gone through.  But on the other hand, tradition can be very prescriptive. Telling you that you can only grow Syrah in the Rhone Valley for example. Old World Wines can also be thought of according to style. If you are thinking of a wine from Bordeaux, you are thinking of a wine, with some fruit, a solid backbone from tannins in the grape and from the oak aging. The wines are typically restrained.

With that summary, what defines New World Wine? New World Wines can be defined by regions in the world, style of wine, and freedom from tradition.  What about terroir?  In my opinion, every area in the world that is growing grapes, and producing wine, has it’s own terroir.  The soil is different, the climate, the shape of the land, the amount of sunlight and rain.  Some view terroir as only being the soil, and indicate that certain types of soil are superior, or have a better terroir, than other soils.  It is true that some soils are better than others for certain types of grapes.  Wineries around the world I think do consider this when they plant their different varieties of grapes.  Merlot for example likes soils with clay, so better to plant it in that type of soil than a sandy soil.  The newer world wineries are maybe still learning which grapes grow best on their soil and show off the varietal character; while the Old World wineries have already built up this knowledge.

So what regions define New World Wines? The prime regions in my opinion are: North America, South America, South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia.  These areas have been growing vitis vinifera typically for less than 100 years, like in the Okanagan, but other countries do have a few hundred years experience, and are still viewed as New World. Chile for example has been producing wine since 1555, and South Africa since 1685.

What about the style of wines from the New World wineries?  Generally you can say that New World wines have more fruitiness to them than Old World wines.  This in part can be due to the fact that many of the New World wine regions are in warmer climates than the Old World wineries, so the grapes can reach full maturity and phenolic ripeness. The New World style can also be seen as more approachable and easier drinking from a young age.  You do not need in most cases to buy a bottle of wine from  Australia, or the Okanagan, and wait 10 years before you open the bottle.  Many are approachable when you purchase them in your wine shop.  Sometimes New World wines have been criticized for having too much fruit, and not enough tannic structure, making the wine “unbalanced”.  Typically one would rate a wine as great when fruit, sugar, acidity, and tannins are balanced so that one component does not overpower the other component.  But for the majority of people who purchase wine to enjoy that day or shortly thereafter, worrying about these technical details is not so important.  There is nothing wrong with enjoying wine with food and friends.

Finally, what about tradition?  As I mentioned earlier, Old World wineries are steeped in tradition, which has good and bad aspects.  One of the bad aspects is to control what varieties of grapes are grown in a region. In the New World regions, wineries are left to grow whatever red and white varieties they think work best in their vineyards.  Sometimes it takes a while to figure out which are the best grape varieties, but at least the wineries get the chance to experiment.  This may even help to find out the microclimates within an area.  For example, the Naramata Bench may grow certain grape varieties better than the Golden Mile, and they are still within the Okanagan Valley not too far from each other.

With all this being said, maybe you would like to try tasting a New World and an Old World wine with the same grape varietal and take note of the differences?  How about trying a Syrah from the Rhone Valley and a Syrah/Shiraz from the Apalta Region in Chile?  Or a Sauvignon Blanc from the Sancerre region France and a Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region in New Zealand?  There are many more comparisons you can try.  Enjoy!

What is Old World Wine?

Old World wine, strictly defined, are wines produced by historically the wine producing regions of Europe. France, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain would be the top producers of Old World wine. These countries have been responsible for many innovations in wine making, such as selecting vitis vinifera as producing the most enjoyable wines (e.g. Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Chardonnay, and Riesling).The Old World region invented the glass bottle for wine, and sparkling wine, among other accomplishments.

Old World wine is also about a style and a mentality about the land. In the Old World, you hear about “terroir“, and how terroir drives which grapes are grown in a region. For example, in the Rhone Valley, Syrah, Viognier, Marsanne, and Rousanne are grown. You would not traditionally find these grapes grown in Bordeaux or the Loire Valley.

What is terroir? Terroir is often used to describe the aspects of a wine region such as soil, climate and topography that are often out of the winemaker’s control. These unique features affect the ripening of the grapes, the nutrients that are absorbed from the soil, and more, which combined make the wine from the syrah grape in the Rhone Valley to taste different from syrah made elsewhere in the world. With the thousands of years that wine makers in the Old World have had with experimenting with different grape varieties on different soils, with different slopes and drainage, and climate, they have found the varieties that produce the best wine in each region.

Another aspect of Old World wine, is tradition. Tradition can be good or bad. Traditions help us learn from the past so that we do not have to go through the learning process that our ancestors have gone through. Such as determining that Syrah grows very well in the Rhone Valley. But on the other hand, tradition can be very prescriptive. Telling you that you can only grow Syrah in the Rhone Valley. Some wine makers, may for example want to grow Cabernet Sauvignon. They can, but the wine would not be accredited as AOC in France by the Institut National des Appellations d’Origine. This has happened in Italy, where some wine makers in the Tuscany region wanted to grow and produce wine with red grapes other than sangiovese. These wines could not be certified as DOCG of Italy at that time. The wine makers were producing excellent wines, and eventually the Italian wine certification body in Italy relented and made a new category for these Super Tuscan wines, called IGT. So change is possible in the Old World, but it can be a long process.

Old World Wines can also be thought of according to style. If you are thinking of a wine from Bordeaux, you are thinking of a wine, with some fruit, a solid backbone from tannins in the grape and from the oak aging. The wines are restrained. Not super extracted fruit driven wines, with lots of vanilla flavour. In time these Old World style Bordeaux reds evolve in the bottle, with the tannins softening, providing support to the fruit, and the flavours and aromas becoming more complex. Some Old World style wines are produced by the wine maker to reach their peak 5 – 10 or more years after the wines are bottled.

That’s a brief overview of what is Old World wine. Much more can be said about Old World wines, and maybe I will discuss more in future blogs. Enjoy.

Wines from Mendoza, Argentina

Most people probably don’t know about the Mendoza area, but enjoy the big Malbec wines that come from that part of Argentina. Mendoza is located in mid-west of the Argentine Republic and at the feet of the Andes. Mendoza is the center of Argentina’s wine industry and accounts for approximately 70% of the country’s total output. Nearly all the major wineries are concentrated in this province. Its signature grape is the Malbec. The climate and terroir in Mendoza are the ideal setting for the full expression of this grape variety. Being high altitude, it gets nice warm sunny weather during the day, and cool night time temperatures, which prolongs the grape ripening season and keeping acidity in the grapes.

Argentina is the 5th largest wine producer in the world. Mendoza has over 140,000 hectares of vineyards. Mendoza exports approximately 90% of Argentina’s wines.

Mendoza produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Barbera, Riesling, Chenin, Ungi Blanc, and Semillon and others, in its over 1220 vineyards. 79% of vineyards are planted with red varietals and 21% with white varietals.

Malbec is the most popular varietal for international markets. With typical black cherry, blackberry and spice aromas, this wine is usually produced in a Bordeaux style, often aged in oak, for a result that is soft, deep, and velvety.

Besides being a great place to produce full bodied wines, the town of Mendoza has a large artist base. So lots of great artwork as well.

A Beaune to pick

On Thursday and Friday this week, I spent driving the Route des Grand Vins in search of a bottle of Burgundian pinot noir to bring back to Canada. On Thursday, we did the Cote de Nuits and Friday, the Cote de Beaune. In Cote de Nuits, our primary stop was in Gevrey-Chambertin. The pinot noir wines of this area are viewed as being feminine in style, while those from Pommard as being very masculine in style. In Gevrey-Chambertin, I visited several small producers, in particular Gerard Quivy and Philippe Leclerc. I particularly enjoyed the wines from Philippe Leclerc. I was able to enjoy the 2003 and 2005 vintage of the Premier Cru les Cazetiers, and the 2003 vintage of the Premier Cru la Combe aux Moines. The 2003 les Cazetiers came from a very hot year making a wine with exceptionally ripe fruit flavours. The 2005 les Cazetiers was not yet ready for drinking, but amazingly had the same flavour characteristics, which Leclerc attributes to the soil / terroir of the vineyard plot used for this wine. The la Combe aux Moines had a leather and cherry nose. It had good black fruit flavour and medium tannins. The finish was very long. I’d say this wine needs 2-3 years more aging before drinking to smooth out the tannins a bit.

Friday was the drive through the Cote de Beaune. Most visits were to some wine shops that offered several wines from the region for tasting. To walk into these shops and see the famous names, such as Montrachet, Pommard, Mersault, surrounding you is truly inspiring and humbling. Thinking how long these wines have been produced and how they have refined the production to small plots of land with it’s particular terroir, and how far we have yet to go in Canada. To avoid boring you with all the wines I tried i thought I would just tell you about my favorite wine for this day. The wine of the day was the 2006 Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru “les Champs Gains” from Michel Bouzereau. This wine was straw coloured with a light oak and stone fruit aromas. The oak continued on the palette along with apple flavour. It had light acidity and was light bodied. If you want to purchase it, one bottle costs 47 Euros, plus shipping and taxes of course. Salut!