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Old World vs. New World Wines


Ron Johnson
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Is there a difference between OLD WORLD and NEW? Yes. But I do believe the lines of distinction are blurring as winemaking technology diffuses. Generally speaking I would characterize an Old World wine as having more earthiness, funkiness, and, frankly, more defects. The whole New World thing (Aussies and Californians in particular) is about clean, correct wines, and often with a distinct presence of oak. Neither is a bad thing. And increasingly, New World is the direction people are going.

But I do think distinctions remain, and they are useful to me in describing wine to customers.

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The whole New World thing (Aussies and Californians in particular) is about clean, correct wines, and often with a distinct presence of oak.

Are they "clean" because they have to filter them to remove all the sawdust? :shock:

Speaking to Mr. Lynch's comment about Old World wines being defective, I wonder if he would apply that to J.L. Chave or Michel and Stephane Ogier?

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I knew that "defective" line would get me in trouble. What I said was that SOME old world wines are defective. Ultimately, to me, Old World means "natural." Using the term defective is dangerous because some really great wines nevertheless have technical defects. But that does not stop them from being great. The ideal of a technically perfect wine is not necessarily an ideal and I think you see a lot of California producers stepping back from that--I think, in fact, the Californians are often unjustly criticized by Euro-centric wine drinkers.

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I think you see a lot of California producers stepping back from that

Do you think California wines are becoming more food friendly? There has always been suggestions that California winemakers produce to win wine tastings, while others emphasize a relationship with food.

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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It depends on the producer. Ridge, for example, is a great California producer that makes really terroir-expressive wines. I guess what I was getting at in my last post is that California-bashing has gotten a little out of control. Wine geeks claim not to follow the whims of fashion but, man, they (we!) are the worst. The fact of the matter is that EVERYONE, not just the Californians, is making wine to win wine tastings or the approval of critics. When I was in Italy the first thing many wine producers did when I sat down to taste with themn was show me their Parker scores.

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Ultimately, to me, Old World means "natural." Using the term defective is dangerous because some really great wines nevertheless have technical defects. But that does not stop them from being great. The ideal of a technically perfect wine is not necessarily an ideal and I think you see a lot of California producers stepping back from that--I think, in fact, the Californians are often unjustly criticized by Euro-centric wine drinkers.

I agree. I also agree with your statement that there is too much California bashing. There are many excellent winemakers in the "New World" and I am not limiting that to California.

Old World wines are definitely marked by defects some of the time. However, I think it is a good trade-off to let the expression of terroir come through rather than show off the technical skill or machinery at the disposal of the winemaker.

Thanks for your detailed answer to my question.

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Indeed, thanks for all your answers to all the questions.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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