The greatest wines of the world come from Bordeaux
, Burgundy and Piedmont. At least, that is certainly what most older-generation wine connoisseurs will tell you. Being great, however, is no guarantee that you will instantly fall in love with them. That’s partly because these wines of the Old world are such different beasts to those of the New World that most of us are more used to drinking.
There is a lot more to the idea of old and new world than just being in different hemispheres. The wines of the old world have been the traditional muse to the new world varieties for eons and there is no sign of this abating. The old world, to be brief, is basically anywhere there were Romans. Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Spain - you get the idea. The new world is Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina, South Africa and North America. It’s hard and at times unfair to generalise about entire countries and their style of wine but there are certainly themes that we meet again and again when we contrast and compare.
The old world makes wines with more structure and less opulent fruit expression, whereas the new world tends to make wine with more fruit expression and less obvious structure. Of course, this is easily one of the most short-handed versions by means of explanation for what is an entirely massive theme.
Old world wine is more than just less fruity and more structured. Old world wine is, in most cases, the template for everything we drink in Australia, but that’s not what makes them interesting. Old world wine has a kind of character that is not always seen in new world wine, it has great savoury elements and often a boney tannin structure. These wines can also take some getting used to. If you only drink Australian Shiraz, for instance, old world reds can seem lacking and aggressive. If you want a little more fruit expression then Spain will be your friend, often delivering riper more fruit driven examples.
In the white category, the wines of the new world are all about ripe fruit. Think New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. The whites of the old world are far more subtle and spicy. Wines like Soave in the Veneto in Italy create beautifully pure and intricate and full wines, yet tropical fruit is not part of their make up. Arneis, Trebbiano, Pinot Grigio are all part of the textural, ‘before fruit salad’ family which makes them great all-rounders: either with food or just an enjoyable drop. They are very flexible.
The white wines of France’s Alsace region and the Great wines of Germany’s Mosel probably bear the most resemblance to Riesling that we can sometimes replicate Down Under, but still there is a degree of separation.
The path of discovering the wines of the old world could be seen to need some patience as the expression is often dissimilar to that which we’re used to, and may need to be taken in steps. Having said that, the journey will open up an entire land map of new options once these different flavours and expressions become familiar.