Tag Archives: Old World

Time for a Party! What to Expect from a Young Wine

Beaujolais NouveauBouchard, Aines and Fils, 2016, Beaujolais Nouveau

On the third Thursday in November a celebration of  the northern hemisphere’s first wines of the year’s vintage occurs as they are released in the USA.  It’s a tradition that begin many years ago in the Old World and has spread to the New World, celebrated with Beaujolais Nouveau parties by many wine enthusiasts and is a fun way to begin the holiday season even before Thanksgiving.  Beaujolais also pairs well with the Thanksgiving turkey in the USA, so it makes a timely appearance.

Sixty percent of the production in Beaujolais is Beaujolais Nouveau.  It is light and refreshing, with acid as the dominant element.  You can’t expect much from a wine that is made and released just weeks after harvest.  It has not had time to marry, soften and blend even if the grapes ferment without being crushed, making a softer wine.  But some are anything but soft.

It is a surprise to find a Beaujolais Nouveau that is, for a such a young Gamay wine, pleasantly soft and appealing.  Raspberry features with little else.  It is a one dimensional wine and also, as expected, not in great balance.  But for those who love Beaujolais and the romance of the first wine of the season, this one is a good choice in 2016.

If you want to sense what a young wine can be like, tasting the Beaujolais each year is a good practice.  Perhaps it’s time for you to join the annual celebration or plan your own Beaujolais Nouveau party tradition to begin in 2017.  Mark your calendar so you won’t forget!

Rating:  84

Emotional rating:  refreshing!

Availability:  Widely available

Old World vs New World Rosé Wines

The Southwest of France and the Cotes de Gascogne

Hillside Vineyards 2015 Rosé vs Colorado and Creekside Cellar’s Rosé N/V

France’s indigenous grape varieties are to be found in Gascogne more than in any other part of France.    Modern winemaking techniques are changing the way wine is made and, hence, some of the rough and rustic character of previous decades is being replaced by technically wonderful wines and a reinvention of what wine can be in this region.  Red grapes predominate and you will find both of these wines a true adventure.

Let’s compare a Rosé from the Cotes de Gascogne with a Rosé from Creekside Cellars in Colorado, USA — both less known on the international scene and similarly priced.

Both wines are clean and well made and if I were to hazard a guess, I would say the French wine was made as a food wine and certainly reveals this intent.  The grapes are various. Therefore, the comparison is of the wines, not the way they have fashioned the same grapes, albeit from divergent terroir.

Minerality is very obvious in the French wine;  less fruit and more of the red wine’s phenolics appear.  In the Colorado wine, we have a softer texture with much more fruit, recommending the wine for easy drinking and a summer’s refreshing lift.  Another element is obvious this time in the Colorado wine:  its fresh acidity and salivating potential.  More fruit lasts on the finish, but both have a short finish and fill the expectancy of typical Rosé wines.  Although the French wine is of a lower alcohol, note its warming effect due to less fruit and acid.

More acid brings out more fruit, so it is sometimes difficult to tell if the fruitiness of the wine is due to the acid level or the potency of fruit flavors in the grape.  é

Note, also, how the balance of the wine is affected on the finish by more or less acid, more or less fruit, and more or less alcohol.

How Wine Got to France – Mourvedres Compared

Cline Mourvedre 2014Bandol

The smoothness and (for a Mourvedre) the abundant fruit of the Cline Family Cellars, you will remember, is what we saw as the character of the California wine.  As with so many New World wines that strive for a seamless balance, it can leave you with little to differentiate it from another wine.  All slide down without a clear statement of their personality, at times.  French wines are usually not driven by these same goals, so expect (even in the warmer climate of Provence) a difference.  One can conclude that the French wine’s lack of smoothness and fruitiness to match the California wine is due to the inability to ripen the grapes as fully in France.  But we shall see that in Provence, where ripeness is really not a problem (certainly not as it is in regions like Bordeaux), the winemaker is striving for a different goal: the unique character of the terroir.

In La Bastide Blanche from the Appellation Bandol Controlee 2012 (to be named as an appellation wine, it must contain a large proportion of Mourvedre), we will be introduced to both the appellation (terroir) and the grape variety.  Given this southern climate, it comes in at 14.5% alcohol — only half a percent less than the Cline from California.   Go ahead and choose a Mourvedre from the New World — US (the Cline, if you can get it) or Australia — and compare the two.  I chose the Cline Ancient Vines Mourvedre 2014 at 15% alcohol because it would give us a good contrast and point out the difference in New World and Old World wines to begin our journey through France.  Taste with me.

Bandol in Provence:  We are met with a deep shade of ruby (maybe a little lighter than the Cline), vanilla, tar, black cherry, plum, cedar and perhaps a little burnt toast, with added mineral layers.  This wine slides over the palate smooth and with a refreshing, pleasant acidity.  The finish is long, with lingering mineral and wood notes mixed with a little fruit and no bitterness from the tannins. The tannins are soft in a slightly less warming alcohol than the Cline.  It is truly varietal, as is the Cline, but different.  This wine has real character and a greater complexity than the Cline.  The Cline is smoother, softer, and fruitier.

Do you think that this wine has more finesse, dryness and layers of dark, savory flavors?  For some palates, it may take a little getting used to — especially if we crave a touch of sweetness and loads of fruit.  Remember, I flagged you that this grape is difficult to vinify and can show flavors of tar.  Does this one do that?  Some people like the flavors of this wine, and some don’t.    This is about you and your taste.  Make your decision.

Perhaps the main difference is the minerality we get in the wine.  Is minerality something you like?  Again, that depends on you and your taste.  Old World and New World stand in contrast, side by side, with these two examples of the Mourvedre grape.  We will find both similarities and contrasts as we journey.

Both wines make this grape of ancient origin — familiar in France, Australia, and Spain — a truly informative experience.   I hope you have enjoyed our first leg and learned something from this winding journey through France and the New World.