Old world, new world. Such common wine terms, but what do they mean?
Old world (European) style wines are typically earthier, lighter, more firm and food friendly. The new world styles (anywhere else) boast pure fruit, bigger body, softer edges and go down easier on their own.
But wine from both origins can express anywhere along the spectrum. For the past 30 years, South America, mostly Chile and Argentina, have exemplified the new world style. Their climates, vine stock, technology, and marketing positioned them firmly among the most ripe, expressive, easyto-drink and wallet-friendly wines. The biggest struggle now for South American wines, is to shake their reputation for “value” and get people reaching for the $20-and-up options.
Names like Concha Y Toro, Errazuriz, Trapiche and Luigi Bosca have become default options for a slew of circumstances. But when wine drinkers seek something a little different, they often turn to Europe. Happily, new world winemaking is delivering more of those old world experiences. And the popularity of Brazilian-style steak houses, like Bolero, Gaucho and Pampa, give us the chance to see the regional wines and their cuisines together in action.
When historical European houses set up shop somewhere in the new world, you know the potential is there. Rothschild (Bordeaux), Torres (Catalonia), and William Fèvre (Chablis) all work in Chile, too. For 15 years, winemaker Marcelo Papa nailed the modern style for Concha Y Toro’s Marques de Casa Concha cabernet sauvignon. But he noticed that he wasn’t reaching for his own wine with dinner. Risking his position, he moved away from opulence and the gamble worked — the 2014 cabernet was named World’s Best New World Cabernet Sauvignon by Britain’s The Independent, which praised it for its fresher style.
In Argentina, wineries we consider typical like Catena Zapata and Familia Zuccardi pursue terroir in their premium wines. Sebastian Zuccardi irrigates strategically, and with a highly specific system of grape variety and site research for structure, complexity and purity (without oak). This approach produces berries with different sugar and acid measurements related to their flavour development than those from the bigger, softer styles.
Yes, Brazil. No, it isn’t known for world wine dominance. We don’t seek it out. We don’t talk about it. But Brazil achieves effortlessly what its more popular counterparts have just started striving for. Its growing regions aren’t hot, steady and sunny, yielding those ripe, opulent wines. It sees higher rainfall by the Atlantic coast and more cloud cover near Uruguay, which is perfect for clean, crisp sparkling and firm, fruity still wines. Vinicola Salton leads the country in Brazil’s most popular category, sparkling wine, outstripping Chandon’s operation with 40 percent of domestic sales.
And, like some European quality requirements, they age some of their still wines before release. Current vintages range from 2013 to 2008, and local specialties like marselan and tannat join Bordeaux-style blends. Through a range of intensity, complexity and structure, they are commonly energetic, nervy and edgy.
Marques de Casa Concha 2014
Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo, Chile
This wine is, as promised, elegant. It shows the classic blackcurrant, cedar and tobacco leaf of great cabernet, and avoids the overripe, wine-gum fruit of much of bulk Chile. Firm, fleshy and focused, it benefits from food, but definitely doesn’t need it. CSPC 337238 $23
Vinicola Salton 2011 Chardonnay
Only made in good vintages, the chardonnay is 50% oak fermented, integrating subtle nut and buttered toast into melon, green apple and pineapple aromas. Firm acidity keeps it fresh and citrusy. CSPC 752413 $37
Zuccardi Q 2014
Tempranillo Santa Rosa, Mendoza, Argentina
This tempranillo makes a good crossover wine. Its dark fruit and heft fall on the new world side, while its firm tannin, acidity and mushroom-earthy aromas make it intriguing. CSPC 165662 $25
Vinicola Salton 2013 Tannat
Fun and surprising, the tannat shows cocoa powder, mushroom and black cherry aromas with a meaty flavour. Medium tannin, juicy red plum acidity, and bright red fruit make it a good match for pork belly or duck breast. CSPC +758329 $19
Versado 2011 Malbec Old Vines
Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina
Canadian wine-making legends, Ann Sperling and Peter Gamble, established prime vineyards along the famous malbec road, the Calle Cobo. At Versado, authenticity is the goal. Hauntingly complex, the Old Vines shows tea leaf, spice, leather, and date through black cherry fruit, with vibrant acidity, firm tannins and outstanding length. CSPC 776649 $34
Espino 2014 Chardonnay
D.O. Pirque, Maipo, Chile
Though their website says “wines are naturally made in a new world style,” William Fèvre, one of the greatest names in French Chablis, is a terroir master. In his Chilean project, he bucks our expectation of ripe, soft melon, pineapple and vanilla flavours, instead delivering green apple, lemon, flint and steel. CSPC 746705 $22