Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Wine 101: Old World vs. New World - Scene Asia - Scene Asia - WSJ

Wine 101: Old World vs. New World - Scene Asia - Scene Asia - WSJ

“The world of wine is a divided one,” says Chris Boersma, the beverage manager for 208 Duecento Otto restaurant in Hong Kong. “For starters, there’s more than one world. There are two: old and new.”

The Old World is Europe, where the tradition of winemaking goes back millennia. Everywhere else that wine is produced—notably, North America and a number of nations in the Southern Hemisphere—is generally referred to as the New World.

Here are a few keys to understanding the basic differences between the two worlds.

Sugar and alcohol: Old World grapes are less ripe and lower in sugar, because they tend to be grown in cooler-weather regions. Since sugar turns into alcohol during fermentation, this means that Old World wines tend to have a lower alcohol content and to be lighter-bodied than New World wines, which are grown in warmer-weather regions.

Fruity vs. earthy: New World wines were originally created to cater to the palate of the novice drinker; their big fruit-centric flavor are easier to appreciate. Old World wines tend to have taste notes that are harder to place — hints of earth and mushrooms, for example — and can make them less approachable for first-time drinkers.

Acid: Acid from the grape plays a big role in Old World wines, which tend to carry a tart zing that literally makes you salivate (this is why a lot of sour wines are seen as appetite-openers). New World winemakers traditionally pay less attention to acid levels.

Age-worthiness: Old World wines carry a reputation of being more worthy of laying down for long periods, largely because of the prime stock produced by the top châteaux in Europe: Bordeaux and Burgundies can age for decades after being bottled and remain vibrant. Many New World winemakers, on the other hand, focus on making wines that can be best drunk young.

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