Some believe that winemakers have a sense of their wines and sommeliers have a sense of their place. Let’s explore that through wines that I tasted side by side with a group of wine pros with Old World and New World comparatives.
Old World ~ Primitivo
2008 Primitivo Rosso IGT Puglia ~ With the high altitude of the Apulia, Italy vineyard for this wine, the Primitivo produces a low harvest yield. As a result, the owner/winemaker Alberto Antonini pays very close attention and gives special care to the Botromagno vineyard’s fruit. The alcohol level on this one was 14.1 percent. Not over the top with alcohol, this classic Italian red had gorgeous – even elegant – flavors of black cherries, spice and herbs, and a hint of tobacco. A great food-friendly wine for not only pasta and antipasti dishes, but it will also do well with a grilled sirloin steak, and it’s very affordable.
New World ~ Zinfandel
2009 Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel ~ Don’t let the simple appellation listing of “Sonoma” fool you, versus stating a Dry Creek or Alexander Valley Zin, for instance. This fruit is coming from both appellations, but they can’t label it that way. It must – because of the two AVAs – be labeled Sonoma County. So… get ready for a 15 percent alcohol blockbuster, and fire up the grill for tri-tips. Zin as I know it… this one is rich and jammy with blackberry fruit. I associate Zins with a briar patch, having first been introduced to Dry Creek zins, while working at Belvedere. I almost expect them to be big and bold, and this is the one red wine that, as it’s gotten even bigger over the years, I’ve not minded. (Maybe it’s because I’ve also developed a Petite Sirah palate along the way, too. So many zins get a dollop of Petite to give them more textures, flavors, and tannins.) Whatever the reason, this Zinfandel is a classic example of what it should be.
New World ~ Merlot in French oak
2008 Clos du Val, Napa Valley ~ The owner of this winery is larger than life in personality, and perhaps that’s why the flavors in the bottle probably are, too. Seriously, we are what we drink, just as we are what we eat… It’s all the same, with the difference of wine being liquid, while the other is solid. It’s all fuel for our senses, bodies, and souls. This wine is 88 percent Merlot and 12 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. It spent 17 months in French oak barrels (so, more old world charm than new world flavors). A full bodied wine with black fruit character, I really enjoyed the lingering finish of dark chocolate.
New World ~ Cabernet
2007 Lancaster Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ~ This wine has had lots of critical acclaim, doing very well, because it’s got that New World jam going on. Great nose, rich palate with black fruit, including cassis, and I loved the cigar and tobacco finish. The 2007 vintage was a classic one for California, and it was really fun to revisit a wine from this vintage. If you’re looking for a wine that’s been aging well to share with your friends, or for a meal with your best friend, find this wine.
Old World ~ Malbec
1999 Chateau Simard Saint-Émilion ~ This wine exhibited for me what I was now coming to recognize as Old World, between New and Old World styles; namely, the rich, rounded edges to the wines. I especially loved the earth note aromatics, due to climatic and/or terroir conditions. A beautiful wine, don’t even think that its age ~ a 1999 ~ has diminished it in any way… If you can find this wine, and you can as it’s now on the market, this affordable Bordeaux needs to be purchased ASAP. Have this one next to another of its New World type, and you’ll quickly get the differences between Old and New.
New World ~ Malbec
2010 Amalaya Malbec from Argentina ~ What a delight to know that my friend and winemaker Randle Johnson (The Hess Collection) is the director of winemaking for this wine. Randle is in charge of Hess’s Artezin Wine series (Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Carignan). It makes sense to me that he’d be the one to head up this Argentine project and direct its winemaking. Spicy and bright tannins, this wine represents the unique soil, weather, and soul in Argentina’s Northern Calchaqui Valley. The grapes for the Malbec were harvested in small 30 pound boxes. This is hand crafting at its best; from the very beginning, once the growing season and viticulturists have done all that they can, winemaking continues the seamless, caring process. A very deeply colored wine, I loved the dark cherries and spicy pepper of this wine, especially on the finish. Enjoy this wine with a last cheese course (mild to medium cheeses), or fire up the grill. You won’t be disappointed with this flavorful interpretation of Malbec. (75% Malbec, 10% Cab, 10% Syrah, 5% Tannat)
For me, and this is just a personal observation,
- Old World wines have a classic, more subtle style. They’re reserved and more conservative, pairing well with more traditional comfort foods.
- New World wines, most especially the reds, are bright, happy expressions of their fruit. They remind me of how elated I was once I hit Portuguese soil… Loving the old, but being the new kid on the block. They seem to pair better with more daring dishes; just my humble opinion, because of their higher alcohols.
In my moods, I swing both ways, so now I know better which wine to pull from the shelves and buy from wine lists. You’ll have to also set up your own experiment, which can be great fun. Start your engines!