Wine's New World

PUBLISHED: 17:12 23 March 2010 | UPDATED: 16:55 20 February 2013

New World wines are defined as: "wines produced in regions established by colonies of European exploration that started with some of the longer voyages within the 15th century."

Message in a bottle

New World wines are defined as: wines produced in regions established by colonies of European exploration that started with some of the longer voyages within the 15th century.

In other words, New World wines are all those produced in regions other than Europe and the Mediterranean countries.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, the first New World winemakers adopted the wine-making techniques of their European counterparts.

But their own climates and soils were totally different, with sweltering temperatures never experienced in the Old World. For example, settlers in California found the sizzling heat too great for the production of good wine grapes, until eventually they realised that in the valleys of Napa and Sonoma there were gaps in the coastal range of mountains which drew in cold air and fog from the sea, providing the essential cooling element so essential for top class wine.
It was during the 1960s, when traditions were being questioned, and barriers were coming down, that New World Wine began to taste global success. Led in the US by men like Robert Mondavi and in Australia by Max Schubert of Penfolds, there came the motivation to modify and improve on the old order. This came in combination with an entire rethink of how to communicate and market the wines.

At first, the New World had been simply using prominent names from the Old World. "Australian Burgundy" and "Californian Chablis" became common. International legislation quickly caught up with this practice however, ruling that Burgundy or Chablis could only be made in Burgundy or Chablis. Despite the fact that the New World producer could use identical grapes and identical methods to produce a top quality version of one of these renowned wines, he could not use any name that the consumer would recognise.

These producers quickly came to the conclusion that it was the flavour of the various grape varieties that was the single most important factor in their wines, and arrived at the solution of varietal labelling. They highlighted the grape variety on the label, their own name, and left it at that. This has changed the whole way we think about, speak about, select and most importantly purchase wine. We now understand the importance of the different grapes, because it is these varieties, as opposed to the place of origin that are stressed on the label. We're all now accustomed to ordering a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir or a Rioja. No other idea has made the pleasure of wine so easily accessible to all.

This accessibility has resulted in a willingness to test, to buy and experience the kind of wine we like, wherever it is made, New World or Old World. Now the Old World has recognised that it must move into this contemporary world so that it can compete and survive, and the naming of grapes on labels has become as popular in Europe as anywhere.

The task for the newer producers is to create wines that have the quality of the originals from the Old World and which will possess the staying power to keep them being purchased and enjoyed by wine lovers all over the world. This is great news for us, it means that we have a larger choice of wines than ever before, from a wider number of places. Additionally, it means that we have the opportunity to experience what a few of the world's greatest wines have to offer and at more affordable prices.

Edward Symonds runs Saxtys of Hereford which is hosting a Hendricks Gin night on Thursday, April 29. The UK ambassador for Hendricks will run a tasting session followed by a cocktail master class. Tickets: 20.

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