As vineyards have sprung out all over the world, wineries in the so-called ‘New World’ have used the traditional wine styles of Europe as a benchmark to aim towards, and to depart from. It was once the case when these New World wines were pre-occupied with their own unique style in opposition to those of Europe – a strategy that has worked very well commercially. However, some wineries are increasingly trying to emulate the great European styles, and starting to succeed admirably.
This was illustrated quite clearly at an informal tasting at the Summertown Wine Café in Oxford. I tasted blind a pale straw coloured white, with buttery notes and ripe apricots on the nose. The alcohol seemed highish, but well-integrated, and acidity was ‘medium’ in the overall scale of things. Toasted nuts came through on the palate, and the wine had an impressively long finish. This indicated, to both my tasting companion and me, a well-made Chardonnay, oaked (the ‘buttery-ness’ and toasted nuts on the palate), from a warm climate (the ‘ripe apricot’ note and the highish alcohol vs the lower acidity). In particular we placed the wine in southern Burgundy, France (perhaps from the Côte de Beaune).
I suppose on retrospective tasting, I could convince myself there was a slight smokiness in the aroma profile which might have given it away as South African. That will be something I look out for in the future when tasting similar Chardonnays, however it illustrates my point that New World wineries are producing wines of the quality and the style of the Old World. And also that blind tasting is the ultimate leveler of wines (and of egos)!
As a postscript, if you’re in the Oxford area and missing the activities of the various wine societies, why not try a tasting at the Summertown Wine Café? For £8 you can select 12 wines to taste off their menu. And if you’re really daring, you can ask to taste a selection blind!