Wines from the old world and wines from the new world.
Isn’t it time to get rid of these obsolete categorizations? Besides only strengthening prejudices, what good does the terms do today? Is Europe really all about food friendly wines, a respect for the wines place of origin and adaptation to climate and soil? And are the wine laws in the European wine regions a good thing only – isn’t it a risk they tend to preserve tradition even when it’s not always good?
Speaking for myself perhaps, I am dead tired of still reading prejudiced categorizations. Googling ‘new world wines’ gave me one hit after the other mockering the wines as flavored booze, industrialized, oak driven monsters or overripe….well, let’s stop there. You get the point. The old and new world doesn’t exist anymore. Everyone would benefit from applying terms as traditional vs modern or old school vs new school instead of preserving an archaic system based on geography.
Preserving the ‘old and the new world categorization’ makes me wonder where a region like for example Douro are to be placed. Sure, when it comes to port wine it’s traditional as few but what about the table wine industry which only has about twenty years of age in the region? The grapes are old and local yes, but the techniques used are in many wines more of the character we like to describe as ‘new world’! A majority of Douro table wine is searching for it’s identity when many ‘new world’ regions has found it a long time ago. Let’s skip the holiness surrounding European wines and just consider the following:
- If old vines are a sign of a long established wine cultivation tradition, well then I suppose 100 years old Carmenère’s in Chile or 150 years old Grenache from Barossa are hard to beat.
- Many 2007 Chateauneufs-du-Pape managed to climb over 16% and still taste sweet. Why is it cool with high alcohol content if its European? Don’t forget top-notch Chateau’s such as La Mission Haut-Brion and Troplong-Mondot in 2009; 14,7% and 15,5%. That much? Oh, cool! A new 1947 Cheval Blanc!
- Ungrafted vines anyone? Where will you find most of them? Colares? Or Chile, Argentina and Australia?
- It took until 2005 before Trebbiano was excluded from the official DOCG Chianti Classico. Why did it take so long and why was it mandatory from the beginning? Aaah, the beauty of the ‘Old world’.
- Let’s stick with the Italian DOCG classification; who was this created for in the first place? The consumers? Then one must ask why the first denominated DOCG wine region was the white Albana di Romagna…
- Which one is most likely a ‘new world’ Pinot; Felton Road from Central Otago or Dominique Laurent from Burgundy? On what criterias should the wines be measured?
- 3 1/2 years in 100% new oak – that’s a fact when it comes to the fantastic LaLaLa wines of Guigal. Are we critic? Noooo..
- In 2007 I tasted a cask sample of an Erdener Treppchen fermented to a dry wine since that is what many Germans ask for today, the winemaker told me. 16%! Last week I tasted a beautifully crafted Aussie; the 2004 The Contours from Pewsey Vale (see below). Still youthful, slatey, bonedry and with lovely precision. 12,5%. Now, who’s the monster?
Before moving on; I’m NOT in pursuit of European wines. Heck no; I love them, collect them and drink them! But the unfair categorizations doesn’t deliver anything good. Keeping them just enhances the difficulties many non-European winery’s faces every day to receive acknowledgment for the incredible and many times, more traditional wines they produce than ‘the old world’.
Two specific wines made me thinking. Chateau Tahbilk’s 150th Anniversary Commemorative Release 2000 – the ’1949 Vines’ Cabernet Sauvignon from the Nagambie Lakes region in Victoria, and Eden Valley’s Pewsey Vale 2004 The Contours Riesling. Both wines stay true to their origin but are shaped in a traditional style which I’m sure many wouldn’t place in Australia when tasted blind. True to origin and still tough to identify as a ‘new world’ wine; contradictive? Let’s find out!
Starting with the Riesling, The Contours offers something extraordinary in today’s freeway of wine. The premium bottling is only released five years after the vintage and although showing signs of maturity it still has plenty of years ahead. The vineyard, planted in 1961, lies nearly 500 meters above sea level in Eden Valley and are synonymous with Australia’s best Riesling region. To preserve the Riesling fruit the wines doesn’t undergo any malolactic fermentation.
Screw cap! Man I love it. I’m so tired of uncorking tainted wines, especially when one really can question the choice of cork. Stubbornness, fear, disrespect for the consumer or just plain arrogance; why are so many wines not intended for ageing still sealed with a cork? And yes, you can age wine sealed with a screwcap if you didn’t know that dear producer!
Right after unscrewing the 2004 offers fine petroleum scents, grass, lime peel, apples, a floral feeling and a hint of peaches. I’ve noted a tropical feel in many German Rieslings as well so this one’s tough to identify as Eden Valley. At least on the nose.
On the palate however it is not as German although the wine is bonedry, shows fine acidity and has plenty of mineral feel. No, the lime zest and the slightly fatter fruit are different but not in the meaning less good. The balance between the components are in real harmony and the purity of the aftertaste is long and lingering. Tasted over three days and it just kept going. A remarkable wine and it gets better!
I normally don’t put too much efforts in relating to the QPR but in this case it’s inevitable. In UK, at BBR, it’s £13,46 when you buy a case,otherwise £14,95. With some fine starting maturity that’s an argument hard to neglect if you’re on the search for great dry Riesling. And, do I need to say it, doesn’t give a d–n where the wine originates from!
(2004 The Contours, Pewsey Vale, Eden Valley, 91-92 points)
Moving on to the Tahbilk wine. As the name indicates the Cabernet grapes for the Anniversary bottle are sourced from a site planted in 1949. Tahbilk is blessed with some really old vines. Besides the Cabernet Sauvignon there’s also one Shiraz site from 1933, a small plot of ungrafted Shiraz vines from 1860 and a Marsanne site from 1927. Ok, let’s not focus on old vines but still; it’s not an exaggeration saying this is hard to beat.
Tahbilk was founded the same year as their oldest Shiraz site; 1860. Sure, they haven’t been doing great stuff since back then but they’ve been around and that counts as well.
When an Aussie with a decade of ageing shows up on the shelves it’s easy to pick up a bottle or two. Especially considering it’s only EUR 30 and the fact I need to taste more mature wines from down under. Mature by the way; boy is that the wrong picture of the 1949 Vines! Sure, it shows starting maturity but still has plenty of years ahead of development.
The 2000 Anniversary wine is given three hours in the decanter. Due to a quite heavy deposit it is also actually decanted. The bouquet is a classic one with complex scents of lead pencil, dried hay, licorice, humus, integrated oak, blackcurrants and pipe tobacco. Blind I would be searching through Medoc, at least initially but after a while in the glass the wine shows an eucalyptus scent which helps identifying the wine. On the other hand; I often find mint in Medoc wines so perhaps this isn’t helping at all?
On the palate it shows elegance, fine balance, lovely maturing tannins and a dry taste. The fruit is sun drenched but never makes the taste sweet. A grassy feel to it, licorice, blackcurrants, violets, eucalyptus and nicely integrated toasted oak. Tobacco! Fine acidity and a long refreshing finish. If you like your wines even older this one will manage at least five more years without doubt. I’d drink it within two or three years though to assure it goes well with my preferences. Only 13% and again; this is more traditional than many Bordeaux wines!
Also, don’t forget the 2008 Marsanne which is the best vintage I’ve tasted in years from Tahbilk (88-89 p)
(2000, 1949 Vines Cabernet Sauvignon, Ch. Tahbilk, Victoria, 93-94 p)
Chateau Tahbilk and Pewsey Vale – when the ‘old world’ is more likely to be Australia than its counterparts in Europe!