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Bubbly Wine,Chardonnay,Sauvignon Blanc,Sparkling,Wine,Wine Education,Wine tasting

Old World versus New World Wines, what are the differences?

My friend Chang Liow of Chinois Asian Bistro had me stand in for him at a wine tasting and luncheon. His restaurant Chinois is located in Windsor, and the food is wonderfully delicious. If you’re a wine person, along with being a foodie, you’ll marvel at his wine list. It’s one that gets stolen on occasion; because like a great wine, it’s the most perfectly balanced one I’ve ever seen. On the list (and in his wine cellar) his wine menu contains wines from all over the world. Chang is brilliant, I mean r-e-a-l-l-y brilliant. He’s a Master Sommelier, does some exporting to Shanghai, and yet doesn’t make anything special of it. But you’ll see this in his wine choices on that wine list. You’ll also hear it when he’s talking about wine. He knows his stuff… period.

For him to send me to sit in for him at a focused wine tasting (and get back to him) was a great honor. The tasting/luncheon was being held by Young’s Market at Mateo’s Cocina Latina in Healdsburg, and was very focused: Old World and/versus New World Wines. Each wine presented had an example from both European and New World producer, in order for each of us to be able to have aha moments (as Chang likes to call them), and I had plenty of them.

The team that set up this tasting was the following: Geoff Labitzke, MW and Certified Wine Educator with Young’s; Greg Schuessler, CSW, Young’s Market’s import specialist for The Estates Group; and Lee Quick, account manager for The Estates Group, as well.

The tasting and what I learned with each new wine introduced, comparing Old World with New World.

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Old World ~ Sparkling

Non vintage (NV) Ayala Brut Majeur ~ This was a pale gold wine, with delicate earthy notes on the nose. Flavors of grapefruit and hints of mushroom dominated for me. A blend of 40 percent Pinot Noir, 40 percent Chardonnay, and 20 percent Pinot Meunier, this wine did present that aha moment that Chang knew I’d have at this tasting. I have yet to taste a sparkling wine with the kind of terroir that presented itself. I admit that I really have a new world palate, and need to really broaden my perspective… honoring my French roots. This Champagne is really a really delicious example, for anyone else similarly wanting to branch out. This wine will pair with just about any food. It has the depth and complexity to be continually enjoyed throughout just about any meal.. as we sipped it with Spanish foods, and it held up really well. The Ayala is a great palate cleanser, which will lead to really enjoying your food as you go along.

New World ~ Sparkling

2007 Blanc de Noirs, North Coast ~ A comfort zone bubbly for me…  The initial burst of effervescence was quite remarkable with its tiny bubbles. From the tech sheet, regarding the Blanc de Noirs: Pinot Noir from Carneros and Anderson Valley combine with fruit from low-yielding Sonoma and Marin coastal vineyards to develop a sparkling wine with a breadth of fruitful aroma and flavor. Select Chardonnay lots give zest and backbone to the blend. This sparkling wine was deliciously clean, and had delicate lemon and berry flavors.

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Old World ~ Sauvignon Blanc

2009 Poggio alle Gazze dell’Ornellaia, Toscana IGT Bianco ~ A big round wine, with grapefruit and tropical fruit dominating on the palate, a touch of lemon grass and grapefruit lingering finish… a very long finish. I give it Three Claws in my Cat Claw Rating system. (Three is a prefect rating, because it’s balanced.) This wine was a delicious example of Old World flavor.

New World ~ Sauvignon Blanc

2009 Grieve Family Winery Sauvignon Blanc ~ The grapes for this wine were picked at two different times. The early picked grapes were fermented in neutral barrels, while the second crop was stainless steel fermented. It created an interesting Sauvignon Blanc, with only two claws of methoxypyrazine, the litter box factor. Perhaps with a five cat claw factor, we miss aromas like tangerine, that I find and really enjoyed with this two claw wine. It was/is a very sophisticated Sauvignon Blanc.

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Old World-Style ~Chardonnay

(Geoff apologized for this wine not coming from the Old World;

however, the wine was chosen because it was so close in style, that it worked.)

2009 Chateau Montelena Napa Valley Chardonnay~ This was a very crisp and clean Chardonnay with bright citrus flavors, the way I really appreciate them. I much prefer a lean chard to one that’s representative of being aged in an oak barrel for extended periods of time. The fruit for this year’s vintage came from a great year’s harvest. As a result, only the best of the best grapes were put into this wine’s vintage. Barrel aged for 10 months, the trick for winemaker Cameron Parry was that even though it’s 100 percent barrel aged, only nine percent of the wine was in new oak. Not over-oaking is what’s given this wine a slightly creamy texture, and allows the fruit – not the oak – to dominate the flavor profile. It’s a very lovely Chardonnay.

New World ~ Chardonnay

2008 Kumeu River, Kumeu, New Zealand ~ This wine did demonstrate its oak aging, but it wasn’t over the top. The fruit was my first aroma picked up; then I noticed the toasted almonds. (If oak leads the way, get out your tooth picks boys and girls. some of you love it that way, and I applaud you for having that palate.) This wine had a different component to it that I had never experienced. (I really do need to get out more with import wines.) First I noticed the kiwi-ness to its flavors, I noticed (yup, there’s the pun), but then I also noticed a bit of tobacco notes. It’s not one that I usually associate with Chardonnay, but it was a pleasant surprise, and it did open my eye with an “aha moment.”

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SIDEBAR: We talked about super tasters at this point. Geoff made a very good point. He understands that there are more women than men with super-palates. He believes – and here’s the very good point – that’s because women bear children and our sense of smell is more acute in order to identify our children. I once read that if you put women and babies in a room blindfolding the women, they’ll find their own babies among the crowd. I believe that. I remember being deeply connected to each of my three daughters, each by her own scent. Now, I have the same thing going on with my grandchildren.

Red wines will follow at another time. When I hit 1,000 words, I know that you’ve got better things to do, even if you’ve gotten this far with my story. Later…

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