My, my – how the wine world has changed in the last 25 years! It wasn’t that long ago that wine lists and supermarket aisles were dominated by the classic regions of Europe with barely a mention for the wines of the New World. What’s happened since then pretty much amounts to a revolution. New technology, price and volume pressures and more excitement outside of Europe have led to New World producers leading the way in recent times, and that doesn’t look like changing any time soon.
What is New World wine?
Basically, wine from any country outside of Europe. Grapes have been grown and wine made in Europe since the times of the Ancient Greeks. Many of the classical regions within Europe (Chablis, Sancerre, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Rioja etc) have been planted with vines for many centuries and have honed their skills and established their products over this period. As the Europeans began exploring the rest of the world, they took vines with them and vineyards begun to be established in these new lands. Most New World vineyard areas are less than 100 years old and have only been commercial- ly available for the past 50 years.
Why buy New World Wines?
Value for money! You can argue that the classic regions of Europe are the still best wines of the world (as they should be – they’ve been making them for so much longer), but they are not cheap. European wines are bound by restrictions – grape varieties, yields, ageing, vineyard areas all of these will be governed by local authorities. On top of all this is the marketing aspect of wine, particularly with established vineyard areas (you don’t spend centuries building up a name like ‘Champagne’ only to sell it at bargain basement prices). The New World are bound by less restrictions meaning they are free to experiment with varieties, vineyard areas and both grape growing and winemaking techniques (machine harvesting being one of the biggest advantages). They also benefit from land prices and labour being much cheaper. Put this all together and you get a lot more bang for your buck. Generally New World wines give you a more fruity flavour in their wines making them instantly pleasing, whereas Old World wines will be more textural.
So what should I look for?
First of all, what ‘not’ to look for. Many of the cheaper New World wines will be shipped in bulk and bottled in the UK. South Africa, Chile and Australia are the main sources for these wines and although they can be perfectly pleasant, they are wines produced specifically to hit a price point rather than be a representation of the vineyard area. They will also be produced using more chemicals (such as Sulphites) and that will give you more of a hangover (the general rule is, the cheaper the wine, the worse the hangover). Check the back of the label and it should say where it is bottled.
You’ll also notice that most New World wines are labelled with grape varieties (Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon etc) whereas Old World wines will be labelled with their region or domaine (Chablis, Sancerre, Chianti, Rioja etc). This makes trying different New World wines much easier than the Old World – if you like Kiwi Sauvignon, why not try Sauvignons from South Africa or Australia.
The best Aussie wines come from the cooler climates – Western Australia, Clare Valley and Tasmania are great examples of this. One region that is causing a stir at the moment is Morninton Peninsular, try the stunning ‘Grand Cru Chabliesque’ Red Claw Chardonnay (£22, The Pipe of Port). Although a little warmer, Barossa is a great region for rich, juicy reds – Dandelion Vineyards Shiraz (£12 The Pipe of Port) is a cracking specimen.
A country that has come on leaps and bounds in the last few years. Forget the cheap, own label wines and look for regions like Hemel-en-Aade, Swartland and Elgin. Paul Cluver Sauvignon Blanc (£12, Marks & Spencer) is darn close to a top notch Sancerre, all lean and svelte-like. Every one of Newton Johnson’s wines are beautifully structured but our current favourite is their red Rhone blend, Full Stop Rock (£16, The Pipe of Port) think Chateauneuf-du-Pape in a velvet smoking jacket.
New Zealand is unique in that they broke into the market with premium wines, whereas other New World regions have had to establish an entry level first. The wine in question is of course Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc full of herbaceous tropical fruits, with Cloudy Bay (£25, Majestic) being the prime outrider. We have the delicious Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc (£16, The Pipe of Port) made by former Cloudy Bay winemaker, Kevin Judd. Pinot Noir has found its home in Central Otago, the world’s most Southerly vineyards. You’ll nd the most Burgundian red wines outside of France here with Rocky Point (£23, The Pipe of Port) being an awesomely earthy, elegant version. For something a bit special, try the earthy, cherry laden Valli Gibbston Vineyard Pinot Noir (£36, Waitrose).
Although Zinfandel traces its roots back to Italy and Croatia, California is now most definitely its home. The sweet Zinfandel Roses appear to be on the decline (although I do nd the good examples a bit of a guilty pleasure) and the winemakers are going back to good old solid red Zin. Lodi is a region in the Sacramento delta with an abundance of old vines – a superb chocolatey, plummy version is Brazin Old Vine Zin (Waitrose, £12.99). Oak is all too often over-used in California, so it’s always refreshing to nd un-oaked wines, particularly whites. Clay Station Unoaked Viognier (£12, The Pipe of Port) from Lodi once again, is a spicy, peachy little number that’s just so drinkable!
Still the source of far too much entry level Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc. For much better value for money, look for Carmenere, an old Bordeaux variety that has made its home in Chile. Chocolan Carmenere Seleccion (£10, The Pipe of Port) is a blackberry spiked, juicy number. One of the funkiest wines I’ve tasted in recent months is old old vine Carignan rose (well, they say Rose but it’s so dark it’s practically red) from the Garage Wine Company (£16, The Pipe of Port). Sourced from the Maule Valley and produced in tiny quantities, it’s packed with wild strawberries and Herbs de Provence.
Producers of some of the best Beef on the planet, it’s no surprise that their wines are a perfect foil for good steak. Kaiken Ultra Malbec (£13, The Pipe of Port) is a classic model, dark brooding fruit, layers of chocolate and a sprinkling of aniseed. For whites, check out the aromatic and unique Torrontes. A bit like a refreshing version of gewürztraminer, Amalaya Torrontes Riesling (£9, The Pipe of Port) is a spice bathed peachy little beauty that’s great with Asian food.
What to look out for in 2016
Both Uruguay and Brazil are waiting in the wings with wines ready to take the UK market by storm. Brazil’s best shot is with sparkling wines. They use traditional methods, and traditional grape varieties but at fraction of the cost. Uruguay have Tannat – a little like Malbec with even more oomph, and they are producing some stunning aromatic whites from varieties such as Albarino and Viognier.