At Total Wine & More, we’re often asked what the difference is between Old World and New World wines. Although we hate to generalize about wine, there are a few key distinctions that often ring true when discussing what separates these two worlds.
In wine terms, the Old World constitutes Europe and the Middle East, areas that have millennia of winemaking history and often abide by age-old viticultural practices, many of which have been codified into law to ensure consistency and authenticity. While Old World wines are markedly different from one another, some attributes tie them together.
Morning vineyard view of the town of St.-Émilion, Bordeaux, France.
In comparison to New World wines, their flavors may seem less pronounced, lower in alcohol, higher in acidity and more tannic. These wines are best enjoyed with food. They’re frequently described as earthy or herbaceous, whereas New World wines are commonly associated with bold and fruit-forward flavors and aromas, often with the fuller body and flavors associated with aging in new oak barrels. As a result, Old World wines are typically considered more elegant and refined in style than New World wines.
Of course, you’d be hard-pressed to find a wine critic who would call a 1986 Caymus Special Selection Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon “unrefined.” In fact, Napa Valley’s remarkable wines were critical in legitimizing the New World wine industry.
In 1976, California wines trumped some of France’s greatest reds and whites in the Judgment of Paris, a now historic wine tasting that opened the door to the New World. Now, the New World is much more than Napa Valley. It most prominently includes the whole of the North America, Australia, New Zealand, South America and South Africa.
Although many of these countries have long winemaking traditions, serious commercial investment has only come in recent decades, which means much of the viticulture boasts state-of-the-art agricultural techniques. New World producers are often associated with a greater investment in technology, which allows for increased production and efficiency.
The view from Pritchard Hill at Chappellet Winery.
In contrast to the Old World, the New World is known for its drink-now wines, which are often assigned adjectives like big, lush, fruity and ripe. Many of the New World’s greatest winemaking regions are in warm climates that can produce wines with higher alcohol content and riper flavor.
And yet, the lines between one world and another may be fading. Old World wineries have begun producing fruit-forward, New World-style wines, while many New World wineries aim to produce lower-alcohol, unoaked wines that reflect a distinctly European style.
See how it all began and get a taste of the Old World by stopping by your local Total Wine & More or shopping online.
At Total Wine & More, we’re kicking off a two-week celebration of Old World wines in stores and online. While big names like Bordeaux and Chianti may immediately come to mind, we strive to educate our customers on how big the Old World really is, and how much it has to offer.
When we talk about Old World wine, we mean Europe – countries such as France, Italy, Spain and Germany – which are home to some of the world’s oldest and greatest winemaking regions. In short, “Old World” is often applied to places that are known for their age-old winemaking practices, but it can also describe the soil, climate and topography – or terroir – of Old World regions.
And while we love wines from marquee areas (Bordeaux will always hold a place in our hearts), the Old World has so much more to offer.
France has more than 400 officially designated wine appellations, or appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC), and many are often overlooked. Alsace is a perfect example. Nestled on the border between France and Germany, the area achieved AOC status in 1962.
Much like France, Europe’s other wine titan, Italy, boasts hundreds of winemaking appellations, and many have a similar story to Alsace—producing great wines that are too often overlooked. While Chianti and Barolo share the limelight, the country has so much more to offer, from Lambrusco and Asti, party-perfect sparkling wines, to Dolcetto and Nero d’Avola, red wines that are easy to fall in love with.
And then there are Old World countries like Spain, Portugal, Austria and Germany, where the wines are coming into their own in the modern era. Thanks to Cava, Tempranillo and Garnacha, Spain is no longer the sum of its Sangria. With the rise of Riesling, Germany and Austria have received much-deserved attention, and Portugal’s Douro Valley has become a hot spot for exceptional red blends.
The Old World is a big place and we want to help you explore it. Stop by Total Wine & More or shop online and you’ll have it at your fingertips.
Bonjour! In honor of Total Wine & More’s 2013 Tour de Vin, we met up with Alfio Moriconi, Vice President of European Imports and Sales, on his recent trip to Bordeaux. Alfio was in town to visit with some of Total Wine & More’s French producers prior to attending VinExpo 2013. As you may remember from last year’s Bowtie Diaries in Tuscany, Alfio has been in the wine business for over four decades — first as a retailer, then as an importer—and has traveled frequently and extensively to Europe in search of small, family-owned wine producers. You can find Alfio’s gems at your local Total Wine under the “Alfio Moriconi Selection” section and on the labels of some of his specialty selection wines. Alfio’s signature look is his bowtie, hence the Alfio Bowtie Diaries. Over the next few days, we will follow Alfio as he travels through Bordeaux, bringing you some of the highlights from his trip so that you can learn more about this famous wine region and its producers.
We found Alfio getting ready to board Air France Flight 39. Next stop, Paris! Seven and a half hours, one croissant, and a quick connection in Charles de Gaulle Airport later, we were on our way to Bordeaux.
Boarding the plane
Bordeaux is naturally divided into two sections, the Right Bank and the Left Bank, by the Gironde estuary. We headed to the Right Bank first, where the most common grape found is Merlot. The two prestigious regions of Saint-Émilion and Pomerol are both found in the Right Bank. Wines in the Right Bank are generally less tannic and more fruit-driven in flavor than those of the Left Bank. Our first stop was Château de Ferrand in Saint-Émilion, which is owned by the family of Baron Bich, of Bic pen family fame.
Château de Ferrand
In 1955, the wines of Saint-Émilion were classified by the French government into two groups, Premier Grand Cru Classé and Grand Cru Classé, to identify the quality of the wines. Each Saint-Émilion wine’s classification must be updated every 10 years, thus these vineyards have to continuously prove the quality of their wines in an attempt to achieve Grand Cru Classé status. At Château de Ferrand, we met up with the Managing Director, Thomas Guibert, who (like most producers in Bordeaux) was concerned by the delay of the grapevine flowering. Because of the number of cold and rainy days this past spring, pollination did not occur until much later, and subsequently fewer grapes grew on each vine. Ideally, the warmer and drier the temperature, the more berries that grow, determining the ultimate yield of the crop.
Flowering on the grapevines
We helped assemble a few wooden crates for Total Wine & More’s order of the next vintage of Château de Ferrand and we were on our way to see good friends of Alfio’s, Florence and Henri-Louis Fagard, at Château de Cornemps. However, before we left, we tried the ’05 and ’08 vintages that received 90 and 91 points from Wine Spectator, respectively – delicious!!!
Wooden crates being prepared for Total Wine & More order at Château de Ferrand
Château de Cornemps’ wine cellar and facilities are located underneath an 11th century Roman church in the small village of Petit-Palais-et-Cornemps, a small commune within Saint-Émilion. Alfio coincidentally met the Fagards and their wines back when he first started in the wine business. As Madame Fagard recalls, Alfio came into a restaurant one night where they were eating dinner. Alfio had been traveling from Bordeaux on his way to the Champagne region of France, and he asked the waiter for the best local wine. The Fagards overheard Alfio’s conversation and brought over their wine, Château de Cornemps. Thirty years later, the quality and affordability still remain and Château de Cornemps is one of Total Wine & More’s best valued Bordeaux wines! The quality of Cornemps begins with the Fagard’s efforts in the vineyards, and it continues as the wine is aged in cement vats underneath the church, which is a perfect climate for aging as the temperature of the wine remains cool and consistent. The use of cement vats in Bordeaux is one of the things that is noticeably different from Tuscany – nowadays almost all winemakers in Bordeaux use cement vats for part of the aging process verses oak or stainless steel.
Château de Cornemps
Cement vats built into the wall of the church at Château de Cornemps.
After a great visit with the Fagards we were on our way to Pomerol. The elegant and refined wines of Pomerol fetch some of the highest prices in Bordeaux. For example, Château Pétrus 2005 retails for $5,499.99! Just a few feet up the road from Château Pétrus, we met up with François Estager and his mother, Michele Estager, at Château La Cabanne. François took over the family vineyard after his late father, Jean Pierre Estager, passed away in 2002. At Château La Cabanne, François showed us remnants of a fire that destroyed their property a couple of years ago, and how he has rebuilt a new state-of-the art facility that produces wines from their family vineyards – Château La Cabanne, Château Haut-Maillet, and Château Plincette. If you are looking for an excellent wine from Pomerol, but don’t want to pay the Pétrus price, you should look no further than Château La Cabanne!
Besides the three family vineyards in Pomerol, the Estager family also owns and operates Château La Papeterie in Montage-Saint-Émilion (the crossroads of Saint-Émilion and Pomerol).
Alfio wishing everyone good night from his room at Château La Papeterie
It is at Château La Papeterie where we finally ended our day of touring the Right Bank, and we enjoyed a delicious five course meal with Madame Estager including some French favorites: pâté, escargot, and the table de formage for dessert!
We’ll have part two of Alfio’s adventures tomorrow, stay tuned!
Argentina’s Malbec grape is a “seriously thrilling star” that consumers embrace for its “damsony,” soft and juicy profile, says Oz Clarke in Grapes and Wines. Indeed, it’s big enough to enjoy with a charred steak or hearty stew, but it’s also silky and approachable enough to appreciate on its own or with lighter fare.
Once a major component of great Bordeaux blends, Malbec now thrives on a far-off continent thanks to a series of both unfortunate and serendipitous events. In the mid-19th century, Malbec vines found their way to vineyards in Mendoza, Argentina, not too long before phylloxera—a root-eating aphid that attacks grape vines—arrived in Europe on imported American vines in the late 1800s. The unadapted European grape vines—Malbec included—began to die out around France until farmers grafted them to phylloxera-resistant American rootstock.
Argentine winemaker Laura Catena of Bodgas Catena Zapata explains in her book, Vino Argentino, that Malbec performed poorly on American rootstock because it produced overly vigorous plants whose fruit did not ripen well. Thanks to the isolated nature of Andes Mountain vineyards, phylloxera never developed in Argentina, allowing Malbec there to thrive on its own roots. Today, these high-altitude vineyards, with their relatively cool but exceedingly sunny weather, provide the ideal environment for producing opulent Malbec wines that possess soft, ripe tannins with plum and black fruit profiles suitable for either oak or stainless steel aging.
While Bordelaise winemakers mostly abandoned the grape, other French winemakers southeast of Bordeaux in Cahors mastered the art of growing grafted Malbec. Today, their wines offer drinkers a more rustic style with chalky tannins that Cahors winemakers note typically exhibit “violet, black currant, cherry, licorice, vanilla, menthol and truffle.” In addition, Malbec grows in France’s Loire Valley, where winemakers, who call it “Cot,” blend it with other grape varieties.
Consumers will find many value-priced and premium Malbec wines within the large Total Wine & More selection. The more affordable versions are perfect for everyday sipping and enjoyment with simple meals such as pizza, pasta and burgers, whereas the premium, often oak-aged versions offer a superb match with hearty beef, lamb, stews and other rich dishes. Check out Laura Catena’s food pairing advice on her Web site MalbecLife.com as well as food pairing suggestions at CahorsMalbec.com.