New World vs. Old World Wines

Monday, December 5th, 2011

The topic of New World vs. Old World wines is an infamous and ongoing debate that is disputed all around the world.  On Tuesday evening here at the SF Wine Center, James Beard Award-Winning Author Jordan Mackay led the class as we explored the many facets of this ever so popular subject of the wine industry.

Jordan began by briefing the class on what exactly New World and Old World mean.  Old World refers to wines that are produced in Europe, while New World refers to wines produced outside of the European continent.  This branding can become tricky with certain countries like Israel because their wine industries are technically far older than that of Europe, but stylistically these wines are classified as New World.

After presenting the class with a basic outline of these two categories, Jordan went on to describe more in depth what the differences between New World and Old World wines are.  The most significant difference is the ways in which the wines are produced.  With each Old World country, the government heavily regulates what can be produced, where, and how.  The governments also regulate the quality of the wines, each country having their own classification system in order to guarantee the production and quality level.  New World countries are given far more freedom to produce what they want and how they want.  In addition to regulatory differences, Old World countries typically have noticeably cooler climates and particular types of terroir that most New World countries don’t have.

As Jordan led the class through this classic debate, we blindly tasted and compared wines of the Old World and the New World.  Jordan explained the certain characteristics to look for that could help the class evaluate which wines are of Old World and which are of New World.  We took note of certain aspects such as Old World wines classically having higher acidity and New World wines typically showing higher levels of fruitiness and alcohol.  Although certain qualities can be successful determinants of New World and Old World wines, it is important to remember that not all wines are created the same and there are many exceptions to the rule.  This concept was most certainly recognized in some of the wines tasted tonight.

My Top Pick for the Night?

Sbragia Gino’s Vineyard Dry Creek Zinfandel 2007 – Sonoma County, CA

This blend of Zinfandel with 10% Carignan and 5% Petite Syrah was a wonderful wine with notes of fresh red cherry, raspberry, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  The French oak added a slight nuttiness to the wine without overpowering it.  This wine has nice acidity, rich tannin, and a prolonged finish that allows your palate to fully indulge in every characteristic and quality of the wine.

Thank you to Jordan and Brian for another fun and informative class!

Wine List:

  1. Ken Forrester Stellenbosch Chenin Blanc 2009 – Stellenbosch, South Africa
  2. Vigneau-Chevreau Cuvee Silex Vourvray 2009 – Loire Valley, France
  3. Petaluma Hanlin Hill Vineyard Riesling 2008 – Clare Valley, Australia
  4. Dr Loosen Riesling Kabinett Blue Slate 2009 – Mosel Valley, Germany
  5. Paul Pernot Les Noizons Pommard 1999 – Cote de Beaune, Burgundy, France
  6. Calera Mt. Harlan Mills Vineyard Pinot Noir 1999 – Mt. Harlan, Central Coast, CA
  7. Tomaresca Torcicoda Primitivo Salento 2008 – Puglia, Italy
  8. Sbragia Gino’s Vineyard Dry Creek Zinfandel 2007 – Sonoma County, CA

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