Old World vs. New World: style or geography?

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Old World vs. New World: style or geography?

Postby Victorwine » Fri Nov 09, 2007 1:58 pm

In today’s wine world are Old World-New World wines defined by geography or by winemaker’s philosophy?
At a recent Long Island Wine Ambassadors (LIWA- a dedicated group of volunteer pourers who help the region’s wineries in promoting the region as a premium wine growing region) meeting, we were given the task to identify if the wine was produced in an Old World wine region (Old World wine) or New World wine region (New World wine) and the grape variety.

Flight one:
Wine 1; Golden yellow color, maybe showing some age. Lots of ripe white fruit with oak influence. My guess New World Chardonnay
Wine 2; Pale yellow color with a slight greenish tint. Citrus, lemon, lightly herbal with grassy notes. Lingering and pleasant minerally aftertaste. My guess Old World Sauvignon Blanc.

Wine 1- (totally fooled me) Adegas Gran Vinum Albarino Rias Baixas 2003 $12 (Spain)
Wine 2- (half right) Palmer Vineyards 2006 Sauvignon Blanc $17 (North Fork of Long Island).


Flight two:
Wine 3; Rich red color. Ripe plum and berries, very soft tannins with smoky oak. My guess New World Merlot
Wine 4; Dark red cherry with some floral notes with hints of chocolate and spice. Slight vanilla. My guess Old world Tempranillo

Wine 3- Palmer Vineyards 2004 Merlot $19
Wine 4- Rioja Crianza Pedro Martinez Alesanco 2001 $17(Spain)

(Note- Flight 2 was a give-me due to the fact that the new winemaker of Palmer Vineyards, Miguel Martin, born and raised in Spain (and 20 years experience as a winemaker- Gonzalez Byass, Robert Mondavi, Yalumba, and Catera), who was the speaker during the educational portion of our meeting, after revealing Flight 1, he hinted that the red variety was also his favorite. It should also be noted that Miguel, who jumped on board as winemaker of Palmer at the start of the 2006 harvest, played a role in producing Palmer’s 2006 Sauvignon Blanc. IMHO he is definitely a winemaker with “Old World philosophy”. The 2007 vintage would be the one, for this is the vintage he not only produced Palmer’s wines he also had a hand in the vineyard. He was very fortunate; God has blessed the vineyards of Long Island this year. It rained when it was suppose to and it was dry for harvest. For the most part during ripening the days where sunny and warm, and the evening cool. The whites are now in bulk storage, the last batch of reds was harvested just last week and the ripeness level and harvest numbers (for both reds and whites) looked real good and promising).

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Re: I know we probably discussed this a thousand times...but.....

Postby Robin Garr » Fri Nov 09, 2007 5:51 pm

Victorwine wrote:In today’s wine world are Old World-New World wines defined by geography or by winemaker’s philosophy?


Excellent notes and a very interesting question, Victor. Assuming one is not 100 percent literal-minded, I'm sold on the position that "New World" defines a wine style, not the place it came from.

I took on just this topic in a short article back in August, 2005:

<b>Old World vs. New: Distinction fading?</b>
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Re: I know we probably discussed this a thousand times...but.....

Postby Victorwine » Fri Nov 09, 2007 6:47 pm

“…..dividing all wines into two categories: Old World (Europe), wines that speak of the earth and a sense of place; versus fruit-driven, big and bold wine styles from the New World (The Americas and Down Under)”.

I know where you stand Robin and thanks for posting. When first asked to identify the wine by region “Old World” or “New World”. I immediately argued that in today’s wine world there is no such thing and that the categories in reality do not represent geography but rather winemaking philosophy and style. Miguel Martin, the winemaker, did agree with me, but the majority of my fellow pourers truly believe that “Old World wines” means wines from Europe and “New World wines”, means wines from the Americas and Down Under.

So that’s exactly how I approached flight one- the “super-size me wine” – New World; the more subtle, earthy, minerally wine- Old World. That is why I mistaken an OW oaky Albarino for a NW oaky Chard and a NW SB for an OW SB. BTW no one got flight one totally right

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Re: I know we probably discussed this a thousand times...but.....

Postby Brian Gilp » Sat Nov 10, 2007 11:04 am

In today’s wine world are Old World-New World wines defined by geography or by winemaker’s philosophy?


In my house it is a hybrid. I ask this question all the time of my wife to get her to narrow down what she wants from the cellar or occasionally when I give her something to taste blind. While we use it generally to refer to geography, I know that we are really talking about the style of wine and as much winemaking philosophy, vintage and as anything else.
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Re: I know we probably discussed this a thousand times...but.....

Postby Nathan Smyth » Sun Nov 11, 2007 2:18 pm

This would be a good discussion topic in its own right: Name an American [North or South] or Pacific [Australian or New Zealand] house that has made a wine which could pass muster as legitimate Old World.

I have had precious few since I've been in this hobby; among reds, I'd say:

1973 Chappellet Cabernet Sauvignon [Philip Togni's final vintage]
1995 Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon [but no other vintage in the recent library release of 1991-2003]
2000 Fisher Wedding Cabernet Sauvignon
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Re: I know we probably discussed this a thousand times...but.....

Postby Brian Gilp » Sun Nov 11, 2007 2:41 pm

Name an American [North or South] or Pacific [Australian or New Zealand] house that has made a wine which could pass muster as legitimate Old World.


A few years back I was at a tasting where Barboursville Reds were put up against 2-3 old world wines. I wish I could remember the details but what I do recall is that the Barboursville wines faired very well. The Barbera I thought was better than the Italian examples and the Sangio was in the middle of my list but tops on most of the others.

I think that some of the better wineries in the Eastern US have a chance to make Old World wines in the better years. In Virginia those on my list would be Linden Vineyards, Naked Mountain for its Chard only, and Barbousville.
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Re: I know we probably discussed this a thousand times...but.....

Postby Max Hauser » Sun Nov 11, 2007 3:13 pm

Nathan Smyth wrote:This would be a good discussion topic in its own right: Name an American [North or South] or Pacific [Australian or New Zealand] house that has made a wine which could pass muster as legitimate Old World.

Actually I've run into it a fair amount, Nathan, over the [30] years, though not every day. One regular, very experienced blind tasting group I'm in does mostly Burgundies, most of its members are in the wine business in the San Francisco area. One of them "imports" US Pacific-Northwest wines to California and enjoys slipping his Pinot Noir "ringers" into red Burgundy tastings, with revealing results since they're blind. Someone once did the same with a Burgundian-styled California Chardonnay among white Burgs and not only was it a favorite, I bought some. (Talk is cheaper than wine.) And there's the history of premium California Cabernets originating with old-world-style roots long before people talked much of "new-world" styles -- more in this Related Thread citing also European tastings of those days, like the 1976 Spurrier "Paris" event. If I recall, part of the news then was that experienced tasters couldn't reliably separate the continents of origin. And apropos the ERP forum, a European contributor there, associated with the GJE, recently posted statistics showing how well judges there could distinguish "new-world" wines made of old-world grapes like Cabernet; for some wines it was far easier than others.

(By the way, I wish someone would assist time-pressed readers like me by changing this thread's title to something more revealing, like "Old-world new-world: Style or geography?")
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Re: I know we probably discussed this a thousand times...but.....

Postby Jenise » Sun Nov 11, 2007 3:29 pm

Max Hauser wrote:
Nathan Smyth wrote:This would be a good discussion topic in its own right: Name an American [North or South] or Pacific [Australian or New Zealand] house that has made a wine which could pass muster as legitimate Old World.

Actually I've run into it a fair amount, Nathan, over the [30] years, though not every day. One regular, very experienced blind tasting group I'm in does mostly Burgundies, most of its members are in the wine business in the San Francisco area. One of them "imports" US Pacific-Northwest wines to California and enjoys slipping his Pinot Noir "ringers" into red Burgundy tastings, with revealing results since they're blind. Someone once did the same with a Burgundian-styled California Chardonnay among white Burgs and not only was it a favorite, I bought some. (Talk is cheaper than wine.) And there's the history of premium California Cabernets originating with old-world-style roots long before people talked much of "new-world" styles -- more in this Related Thread citing also European tastings of those days, like the 1976 Spurrier "Paris" event. If I recall, part of the news then was that experienced tasters couldn't reliably separate the continents of origin. And apropos the ERP forum, a European contributor there, associated with the GJE, recently posted statistics showing how well judges there could distinguish "new-world" wines made of old-world grapes like Cabernet; for some wines it was far easier than others.

(By the way, I wish someone would assist time-pressed readers like me by changing this thread's title to something more revealing, like "Old-world new-world: Style or geography?")


Max, Robin or I will change it if Victor gives us the nod, but it's his thread and we don't change titles except to correct spelling.

But to the matter at hand: I agree with your reponse to Nathan, as I've run into a small number of wines that could pass. But that said, I am impressed every single month when I have lunch with Bill Spohn's brown bag group in Vancouver the extent to which this group is rarely fooled. No matter how restrained the style of new world wine, something new worldy about it always shows. Much harder to detect, however, are the old world wines from ripe years made in the modern, California style.
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Re: I know we probably discussed this a thousand times...but.....

Postby Robin Garr » Sun Nov 11, 2007 3:42 pm

Nathan Smyth wrote:This would be a good discussion topic in its own right: Name an American [North or South] or Pacific [Australian or New Zealand] house that has made a wine which could pass muster as legitimate Old World.


Most wines from Edmunds St. John
Many wines from Patrick Campbell (Laurel Glen)
Many wines from Bill Easton (Terre Rouge)
The earlier Pinots from Domaine Drouhin Oregon

There are plenty. The notion that all California wines are uniformly "New World" (i.e., Parkerized) is just as silly as the notion that all Australian wines are.

Australian wines with "Old World" character, for me, include most Coonawarra Cabs (Penley being a great example), just about everything from Western Australia (Leeuwin for example), most of John Duval's wines and a fair amount of the wines from Torbreck, Coriole and d'Arenberg.
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Re: Old World-New World; Geography or Style

Postby Victorwine » Sun Nov 11, 2007 3:54 pm

Go for it Jenise!

I agree with Brian, Max and Robin.

Robin posted:
There are plenty. The notion that all California wines are uniformly "New World" (i.e., Parkerized) is just as silly as the notion that all Australian wines are.

Brian posted:
I think that some of the better wineries in the Eastern US have a chance to make Old World wines in the better years.

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Re: I know we probably discussed this a thousand times...but.....

Postby Rahsaan » Sun Nov 11, 2007 4:26 pm

Since most people seem to agree that Old World vs. New World is primarily an issue of style and not geography, it is also worth asking to what degree the overripe/high alcohol style is exclusively New World. I.E., Parker and UC Davis aside, haven't there been old world oenologists and other influential people contributing to the trend, along with shifting palates among younger Europeans?

How much can we really locate the development in the new world at all?

(Am just wondering, since I lack the history with which others may be more familiar)
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Re: I know we probably discussed this a thousand times...but.....

Postby Thomas » Sun Nov 11, 2007 8:07 pm

Rahsaan wrote:Since most people seem to agree that Old World vs. New World is primarily an issue of style and not geography, it is also worth asking to what degree the overripe/high alcohol style is exclusively New World. I.E., Parker and UC Davis aside, haven't there been old world oenologists and other influential people contributing to the trend, along with shifting palates among younger Europeans?

How much can we really locate the development in the new world at all?

(Am just wondering, since I lack the history with which others may be more familiar)


From a technical standpoint, there really is a delineation between Old and New World. But since the Old has caught up with the New in that department, the lines have been blurred, and considerably.

I can't prove it, but I'd bet that those wines that many of us describe as Old World, likely lack the benefit of some of the New World technical applications.

In that regard, it may be that technology is what brings the Old together with the New. That technology, again, in my view, is the "thing" that masks those local and regional issues that gave us the Old World sensibilities, especially those of us who have been drinking wine since before the 1980s, when the New World technology really took off.
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Re: Old World vs. New World: style or geography?

Postby TimMc » Sun Nov 11, 2007 9:08 pm

Old World vs. New World: style or geography?


Could it be both?


In a blind tasting I cannot always tell an Aussie wine from a California wine, but I can usually guess a French or Spanish wine. That is, I can tell a definite difference given that the wines would be of the same grape variety.



My two cents.
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Re: I know we probably discussed this a thousand times...but.....

Postby Rahsaan » Sun Nov 11, 2007 9:15 pm

Thomas wrote:From a technical standpoint, there really is a delineation between Old and New World...I can't prove it, but I'd bet that those wines that many of us describe as Old World, likely lack the benefit of some of the New World technical applications..


Ok, but if so, are Old World and New World really appropriate terms.

There is always a cross-fertilization of ideas in life, and even if reverse osmosis was created in the New World (I don't know, was it?), does that make it a New World technique?

Similar debates over capitalism, democracy, etc, which may have begun in certain places but can also be altered and applied in various contexts.
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Re: I know we probably discussed this a thousand times...but.....

Postby Nathan Smyth » Mon Nov 12, 2007 1:44 am

Rahsaan wrote:Since most people seem to agree that Old World vs. New World is primarily an issue of style and not geography

Obviously I'm not most people - I always seem to be the odd man out on these threads - but I have to take issue here: I just don't see enough minerality, acidity, mid-palate grip, aromatics, mouthfeel, or terroir in the vast majority of New World wines to believe that you can dismiss the geographical constraints so casually [especially the weather and the temperatures, although I'm a little suspicious of some of the soils, as well].

For the record - I love a big, hot, sweet, succulent red wine, although I find that California does kinduva limp-wristed, wimpy, metrosexual version of it - if I'm in the mood for big, hot, sweet, and succulent, then I'll head straight for the source, which would be Australia [and save a bunch of $$$'s in the process].

But I am interested in California wineries which are making a serious attempt at crafting something really suave and sophisticated - I know it can be done, but I encounter it so rarely that I have to wonder if the geography [especially the climate] isn't holding them back.
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Re: I know we probably discussed this a thousand times...but.....

Postby Nathan Smyth » Mon Nov 12, 2007 1:47 am

Max Hauser wrote:the 1976 Spurrier "Paris" event

I wasn't old enough to drink wine in 1976, but everything I've ever read about the 1970's indicates that the winemaking styles of that era bear little resemblance to the winemaking styles of this era.

Like I say, I've had the 1973 Chappellet [Philip Togni], and it was one of the best red wines I've ever tasted [maybe THE best], but I don't know how many Cali reds on the market today would taste [or, especially, SMELL] that good in 30 years.
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Re: Old World vs. New World: style or geography?

Postby Bob Ross » Mon Nov 12, 2007 1:57 am

Victor, it's worth quoting Her Majesty Jancis on this subject in the OCW 3:


New World

term much used in the wine world, initially somewhat patronizingly but with increasing admiration over the past quarter-century as the New World‚s share of global exports rose from 3 to 23 per cent, to distinguish the colonies established as a result of European exploration, beginning with some of the longer voyages in the 15th century. As such it contrasts with the old world of Europe and the other Mediterranean countries where the vine was widely established by the 4th century. Most of the differences between the Old and New Worlds of wine are being systematically eroded as those in the Old World increasingly adopt technical innovation and those in the New World are increasingly exposed to some of the better aspects of tradition.


My understanding is that we are in a period of transition in the meaning of these phases. When I got interested in wine 12 years ago, this distinction was really significant, and folks knew what it meant. Today ... well it's a two way street, and you have to think hard about the distinction, unless all you are trying to do is communicate a somewhat duplicative indication of location, rather than wine style.

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Re: Old World vs. New World: style or geography?

Postby Thomas » Mon Nov 12, 2007 10:58 am

Bob Ross wrote:Most of the differences between the Old and New Worlds of wine are being systematically eroded as those in the Old World increasingly adopt technical innovation and those in the New World are increasingly exposed to some of the better aspects of tradition.

My understanding is that we are in a period of transition in the meaning of these phases.

Regards, Bob


Yes, on this, I agree with Jancis, as my earlier post indicates.

I've always felt the difference was in the mechanics of winemaking, the length of application of technological methods as opposed to so-called tradition, which really should be read as low-tech. But even in the Languedoc, the symbol of "tradition" winemaking, and in Rioja, the once place of dust and dirt in the wines, technological developments have changed what we (or at least I) have been tasting lately.
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Re: I know we probably discussed this a thousand times...but.....

Postby Max Hauser » Mon Nov 12, 2007 2:43 pm

Nathan Smyth wrote:But I am interested in California wineries which are making a serious attempt at crafting something really suave and sophisticated - I know it can be done, but I encounter it so rarely that I have to wonder if the geography [especially the climate] isn't holding them back.

Again, if I understand the description, that was the rule -- not the exception -- when California reds were establishing themselves. I mentioned some history Here. (Phenomena like focus groups, winery tour buses, Hollywood celebrities buying wineries, and heavy Latinate label names suggestive of Gregorian chants, or the Inquisition, came later to California. After its wines were successful.)

Offhand, some California Cabernet examples that I've experienced personally, in some cases recently:

1955 Inglenook Cabernet
1965 Inglenook Cabernet
Heitz Martha's Vineyard, 1968, 1969, 1974

BV Geo. de Latour Private Reserve [Tchelistcheff's wine], many years in 1960s and 70s -- some STILL drink well, I recently attended a meal with nine of these wines, 1968-1976, through courtesy of a modest but enthusiastic local wine consumer who simply bought them at the time, and stored them well.

Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet (but mature, like an old-world dark red, rather than served young as Gaiter and Brecher suggested in their "Thanksgiving" article, Wall St. Journal 9 Nov 07) -- this wine is still produced in its original style.
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Re: I know we probably discussed this a thousand times...but.....

Postby Thomas » Mon Nov 12, 2007 4:00 pm

Max Hauser wrote:
Nathan Smyth wrote:But I am interested in California wineries which are making a serious attempt at crafting something really suave and sophisticated - I know it can be done, but I encounter it so rarely that I have to wonder if the geography [especially the climate] isn't holding them back.

Again, if I understand the description, that was the rule -- not the exception -- when California reds were establishing themselves. I mentioned some history Here. (Phenomena like focus groups, winery tour buses, Hollywood celebrities buying wineries, and heavy Latinate label names suggestive of Gregorian chants, or the Inquisition, came later to California. After its wines were successful.)

Offhand, some California Cabernet examples that I've experienced personally, in some cases recently:

1955 Inglenook Cabernet
1965 Inglenook Cabernet
Heitz Martha's Vineyard, 1968, 1969, 1974

BV Geo. de Latour Private Reserve [Tchelistcheff's wine], many years in 1960s and 70s -- some STILL drink well, I recently attended a meal with nine of these wines, 1968-1976, through courtesy of a modest but enthusiastic local wine consumer who simply bought them at the time, and stored them well.

Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet (but mature, like an old-world dark red, rather than served young as Gaiter and Brecher suggested in their "Thanksgiving" article, Wall St. Journal 9 Nov 07) -- this wine is still produced in its original style.


Yep, those deLatours could have fooled any traditionalist. And don't forget the marvelous, earthy quality of Louis Martini and Sebastiani wines before the 1980s--and Almaden (along with Inglenook) before corporate takeover, although I missed their best years.
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