To be or not to be? Sorry Willy but I couldn’t help myself by stealing your line from Hamlet.
Over the last several months I have seen and read a whole lot of blogs taking one side or another of this wine issue. I think that there is virtue in both sides. Since I am not a fence sitter let me explain.
It would seem that those who favor the Old World wines scoff at the New World wines for their lack of maturity and for being hot (too high an alcohol content). The New World fans will just sit back and call the Old World wine lovers snobs. Comparing recently released wines, New World wine lovers will notice how much more length their wines have. For the longest of times I tended to lean towards the latter argument.
Several events recently opened my eyes to more possibilities. Admittedly my weakest understand of a country’s wine was French. To gain knowledge I started reading Robert Joseph’s book entitled “French Wine”. While I was absorbing this material I had several occasions to drink with friends who had extensive cellars with old wine (like 10 to 30 year old wines). During these tastings, we tasted the wine blindly (we could not see the labels). We tried individually to guess the origin of the wine, the year it was made and what varietals were used to make it. Primarily these wines were old and made in France. (If you have wine friends try this, it is a lot of fun and you learn a lot. Don’t take the cover off the label until everyone has guessed.)
Smuggled into these wines were a few American bottles and even a Canadian wine. It became very apparent at the differences. The structure, balance and subtlety of each wine helped me understand what those Old World lovers were talking about.
Meanwhile I tried to envision this lesson with each page I read of Joseph’s book. If you want to become even a well versed French wine drinker you better be prepared for a long journey. Each region has its own set of rules concerning the label and it is no easy task for a novice to understand. Additionally, it is not the vineyard that is important but the producer who blends the wine. Using Mr. Joseph’s own words many quality French wines are not really approachable for many years. For each varietal, in each region, in each appellation he makes individual suggestions; but generalizing I would say that its at least six years on average and more like 10 years to really begin to taste the finer qualities of these wines.
If you are a wine lover like I am that would require a lot of space to cellar wines long enough to be at a point where you would be truly rewarded for waiting. How do you know which wines are worth the effort when you are buying them (at an affordable price)? You need to find someone who “really” knows their French wines who can make suggestions.
If you are a New World wine lover my suggestion to you is if you ever get the chance to taste a quality old world wine that has been properly aged “go for it”! You will probably understand after a few wines what they have been talking about.
I would also guess that it is the New World wine lovers who are more adventurous, especially in trying wines made from unknown varietals. I would also like to point out that many of the winemakers (especially the younger ones) from Spain and Italy are shifting towards a style of wine making that is more “new world”.
As I have read last year’s reports, wine consumption is down in countries like France and Germany, the producers will face tough competition in the global market. Countries like India and China are increasing importing wines from around the world. It remains to be seen who will win out. It is my hope that no one does.
Both styles have a place in this world. If there is ever a time where my wine storage capacity increases several fold you can bet that I will try aging a number of “Old World” wines (but only after a lot of research).
May you savor whatever is your favorite wine!