January 2007                              


Wines of the month - Paul DeRose

Old World Grapes, New World Style

Elaborate dinners with doting waiters and stuffy patrons, private parties of the annoyingly rich and famous, or the vinous roundtable with swirling and tasting, followed by spitting. These are just a few of the less than appealing settings in which fine wine has traditionally found itself, which once drove (and sometimes still does) American drinkers away from wine to more comforting beverages. But the wines of old were themselves often just as much to blame as their images for turning us off. Traditional old world wines could be earthy, astringent beasts that commonly required many years in bottle under perfect storage conditions to become smooth and appealing.

California wine changed all this in the 1970’s with wines that were both appealingly fruity upon release and of fine quality. Since then the California model has spread like wildfire throughout most of the world. Even the French have changed the style of many of their wines, although they don’t like to admit it, to be more “American”. Ironically, just about all of these fine “New World” wines are made from long-existing, European grapes, due to the fact that other types of (e.g., native American) grapes usually don’t make very good wine.

Listed below are some recent standouts for me that herald the New World style.

2004 Mitolo Jester Shiraz (Australia) $22

2005 Rosenblum North Coast Zinfandel (CA) $20*

2005 Nobilo Icon Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand) $15*

2004 Veramonte Primus (red blend – Chile) $15

2004 Grove Mill Riesling (New Zealand) $12*

* indicates available in Montgomery County