In Geography class, learning the world’s major rivers, mountain ranges and rock formations was a required chore. But today, you can use these same facts (just like your teacher promised) as exciting tools to map suitable wine recommendations. Here’s how.
Globally, the world of wine is divided into two major categories: Old World and New World.
Old World wines (France, Italy, Germany, Spain) have roots firmly planted in tradition. The soil, climate and age-old barreling practices give the wines an identifiable flavor that is earthy and subtle.
Conversely, New World arrivals (America, Argentina, Chile, Australia and New Zealand) are being born every day and, with the aid of temperature-controlled vats, are fruit-forward with pronounced aromas. The difference in style, flavor and focus is quite remarkable.
Take Chardonnay, for example.
In New World regions, this grape is often oaked with lots of creamy toast and vanilla. In Old World regions, Chardonnay takes on a crisp, refreshing edge that is just as yummy.
So what makes the same grape taste so different? The answer is twofold. First, neighboring rivers, mountain ranges and ocean breezes alter the microclimate of the region, which in turn changes how the grapes ripen.
Cooler climates, such as the Old World’s Loire Valley of France, create a more acidic wine. Warmer New World regions, such as Australia and Chile, produce riper grapes resulting in bold flavors and higher alcohol.
Mother nature aside, the techniques used to make wine differ region to region. New World wineries tend to use stainless steel vats and high-tech controls so the resulting wines are aromatic, squeaky clean and ready to drink. Many Old World counterparts rely on traditional cask aging with less filtration for wines that require years of cellaring in bottle.
Whether you prefer Old World or New World styled wines in your glass, one thing is for sure: Geography makes learning about wine fun and interesting. So grab a bottle of each, taste them side-by-side and pull that old globe out of the attic.
Marianne frantz, CWE and founder of the Cleveland Wine School, was joined by the Cleveland NEOenophiles in selecting and sampling wines for this month's Cellar Notes.
2004 Louis Jadot Pouilly-FuissÃÂ©, Macon, France ($25): Old World Chardonnay. Medium-plus body, creamy with nutty, vanilla, lemon curd, yellow apple, oak and mineral aromas. Mineral edge with crisp acidity and a long finish.
2004 Gallo Family Vineyard Sonoma Reserve, Sonoma County, California ($13): New World Chardonnay. Fruit-forward with lots of melon, citrus and vanilla. Medium-plus body with crisp acidity, hint of oak and a long finish.
2004 The Jibe Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand ($17): New World Sauvignon Blanc. Medium body with aromatic grapefruit, lemon, musky melon, lemon grass and mineral aromas. Medium-high acidity and long fruit finish.
2003 Pascal Jolivet Sancerre, France ($25): Old World Sauvignon Blanc. Medium body with pronounced aromas of citrus, grass and mineral. High acidity with medium alcohol results in a clean, long finish.
2004 WillaKenzie Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon ($25): New World Pinot Noir. Fruit-forward with ripe aromas of red cherry, red plums and cranberry; baking spices and licorice with hints of herbal notes and crisp acidity.
2004 Joseph Drouhin Santenay, Burgundy, France ($27): Old World Pinot Noir. Medium bodied with cherry, red raspberry, clove and dried herb aromas. Crisp acidity and a hint of smoky toast and earthiness.