WineGuyMike: What’s Your Wine Style?


Pick up your empty glass and hold it up to the sky as you look out the window.  Imagine the beautiful color of your favorite wine adorning the glass, bend your elbow and pull the glass close and tip your nose deep into the glass.  Breathe deeply and imagine the wildest exotic aromas of your favorite wine rising from the juice in your glass.  Lower the glass to your lips, tilt your head gently back and take an imaginary sip of the finest wine you have ever tasted.  Swish the wine all about as it invigorates your palate.  Swallow the liquid nectar and imagine The Trail that it has left behind, the finish of the best wine you have ever tasted.  It lingers on your palate just like a song you hear on the radio and then it is stuck in your head.  You play it over and over, on your palate and in your mind.

That’s right I’m going to take you on a new virtual wine journey week after week in 2014.  We are going to meet interesting new people from the vast world of wine.  Virtually traveling to new places we have yet to visit, experiencing wine in a way you and I have never imagined.

Welcome to 2014.  Today I’m going to talk about style, your wine style preference is what I’m referring to.  So far this winter Western Montana has been a little bit strange.  Why you ask, well it has in the high 30’s to mid 40’s and the last time I checked it is early January.  As memory serves me it is usually about zero’ish this time of year in the Rocky Mountains.  This is more than a little disconcerting, it is just downright unusual.

Photo by star5112 via FlickrDid you know that all throughout the decade of the 60’s that grape farmers in Burgundy, France harvested their grapes on average at the end of September?  In the first few years of the millennium that harvest took place in the first week of September.  I don’t begin to know what that means but it is a huge change.  When I think about having Spring in the middle of Winter in the Rocky Mountains and major climate changes in wine country around the world it is one of those circumstances that make me go hmm……………..

Old World, New World, what’s your style?  Let’s take a closer look and see if we can define this.  First of all let’s consider these terms; Old World wine, Old World winemaking, New World wine, and New World winemaking.  What do these terms mean and why are they relevant?

When I think about terminology that best describes Old World vs. New World these are a few thoughts that come to mind.

Old World; Ancient, Europe, tried, apprenticeships, craftsman, details, tradition, experience, patience, aged, practical, these are my thoughts when I think of Old World.

New World; Young, new, melting pot, now, in the moment, technology, science, instant gratification, excess, impatient, brash, learn as I go, these are a few terms that come to mind when I think of New World.

I’m not suggesting that one is better that the other, what I am suggesting is that when it comes to wine, these are styles.  Styles should be considered for the situation, perhaps a style to suite your mood, or your frame of mind.

For me Old World vs. New World could be compared to the difference between those who cook with feel and experience and those who cook with recipes.  Old World draws on centuries of experience thus allowing for intuitive multi-dimensional winemaking.   New World has decades of experience, it may still be developing its formula, striving to become more dimensional.  Experience enables chef’s to create and cook with intuition; the same can be said for winemakers as well.

Wine Smelling by chispita_666Winemakers from the Old World are very much in the background.  Current winemakers are a result of many years of understudy and apprenticeship with the winemaker who made wines at that particular Chateau or Estate. Rarely do you know the name of a famous Old World winemaker, but it is common to be aware of a famous Chateau or Estate that produces excellent wine.  This is because European wine laws typically dictate what grapes can be grown, how much of them can be grown, harvested, and dictate how the wines are made.  Wine regions of the Old World have be growing grapes and making wine for centuries.  The New World does not yet have this type of experience to draw from.  The Old World quite literally has this down to a formula and they understand their terroir, or sense of place.

Let’s remember that Old World wine is made by design, it is made to complement foods that are indigenous to that particular region.  These wines are blends of grapes that are smooth and easy to drink and are easily enjoyed with foods they are designed to pair with.  Old World wines exude restraint but express subtle nuances of sense of place, are understated yet complex, these are sophisticated wines that present as simple.

Wine in the New World in the most historic sense may only be a century old.  Cavalier vineyard owners and young winemakers are still discovering new places to grow grapes as they understand terroir.  Historic floods, fossils, seismic activities, and cataclysmic eruptions up and down the west coasts of North and South America are now the home of multitudes of renowned vineyards with serious potential.

If you look closely at the pedigrees of New World winemakers almost all have wine related degrees of Enology or Viticulture from UC Davis or Oregon State.  What does this mean for you and me?  Most new young winemakers have these degrees prior to having the opportunity to utilize their specialties at a wine estate. This is unlike the Old World that is steeped in the tradition of apprenticeship.  New World winemaking comes at wine from a very different direction than Old World in some respects and I believe it is reflected in the wine, not that this is bad, it is just different.

New World wines are not made as a result of foods indigenous to regions.  These wines are driven by science and now are also by an understanding of the terroir.  Vineyard owners and winemakers understand terroir now in a way the Old World has for centuries.  So how are the wines different, well to start with most New World wines are single varietal wines, although many winemakers that are beginning to blend wines well.  Most New World wine has a much higher percentage of alcohol than Old World wine.  This presents wines that are much bigger, much bolder than their European counterparts.  In general most New World wines are designed to drink and not necessarily made with a food pairing purpose in mind.  That is not to say New World wines do not pair well with food, they are not made to complement food localized to a region.

I find that New World wines have a much sturdier frame or structure, are much more pronounced visually, aromatically, and certainly on the palate.  This is the New World style of wine, is this better, less than, no they really cannot be compared because they are simply different.   As for me it really comes down to what is the circumstance and what kind of mood I’m in.  Do you want wine to enjoy dinner with or do I want to sip on wine to be social, a lot to consider.  New World and Old World alike both produce wonderful wines, but perhaps with a different focus.

“In the Rocks” Syrah from Reynvaan Family Vineyards

Reynvann Family Vineyards LabelThis is an example of an Old World style of wine made by Matt Reynvaan who last year was noted as one of the top 30 winemakers under 30 years of age in the world.  Nobody does wine better that Reynvaan Vineyards from Walla Walla in the Columbia Valley AVA.

The 2009 “In The Rocks” is packed with dark fruit aromatics, smoked meats, crushed gravel, and white pepper.  It is very animalistic with hints of sweet creme brulee and will benefit from 5 years of cellaring if you are able to resist the temptation to drink it.  Terroir driven wine that is outstanding, you don’t want to miss this.



Truchard Vineyards Syrah from Carneros Napa Valley

Picture10The 2009 vintage produced fruity wines with intense flavors, great texture, and beautiful balance.  This terrific example of a New World style of wine from the Carneros area in the Napa Valley has aromas of plum, boysenberry, and blackberry; highlighted with vanilla, earth, and white pepper.  On the palate this wine is fills your mouth with rich flavors of cassis and black cherry; followed by mineral and cracked black pepper.  Ripe tannins provide an opulent, long finish of fruit and spice.  This wine is well made and a beautiful wine to drink.

*Both of these wines are upscale wines that represent the Old World vs. New World styles referred to in today’s blog.  There will be selections of both styles available at your favorite place to shop for affordable wines.



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