New World Wines, From Lebanon To Atlanta
Two wine guys, two questions, some great answers! Jeremy Emmerson reports.
Recently we caught up with John Mayfield, Sommelier of BLT Steak Atlanta and Herve Pennequin Wine Director at The St. Regis Atlanta and asked them about New World wine and who they think has the potential to be the new kid on the wine block.
G.C - California, Australian and South African wines used to be considered "New World Wines" but now with their fantastic qualities and raised profile, what do you consider to be New World?
John Mayfield heads south and north of the U.S border… Canada & Mexico have not exactly been on the forefront of wine drinkers' collective minds, but they are certainly worth a look.
Understand that "New World" has many different connotations, but in this context it represents a forefront of fruit-driven wines that are up-and-coming. For years, Canada has been a bastion of Native American grape varieties that created wines that at best could be described as 'foxy' (not in the good way). However, in recent years, Canada has begun to strengthen its winemaking laws and therein begun producing international grape varieties of quality, such as Syrah, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir. In 2007, Jackson-Triggs, infamous for its Ice wine, won first-place as "Best Shiraz Worldwide" at the prestigious IWSC in London, marking the first time Canada has ever won an award in this venue. In addition, Mission Hill Chardonnay Chardonnay won a comparable award. When the judges learned of the wine's origin, a retasting was conducted... Mission Hill still won!
"When people think of Mexico, quality wine is not what comes to mind, however..." John Mayfield
When people think of Mexico, quality wine is not what comes to mind.
However, consider this,... Temecula, CA is a great wine region and is very close in proximity to Mexico's best region: Baja California. As America's oldest wine-producing region, Mexico has shown great aptitude for Petit Sirah, Zinfandel, Tempranillo, and Sauvignon Blanc.
Look for wines by Monte Zanic, Vinas Bibayoff, Cavas Valmar, Casa de Piedra, and the Bordeaux-inspired Chateau Camou. Freixenet of Spain also established Finca Doña Dolores in 1983 to produce sparkling wines.
Herve Pennequin reminds us of the true meaning of New World Wine… Actually the so-called New World Wines are wines with a very intense fruit flavor profile versus more mineral, earthy style found in the Old World Wines. The wines from California are still considered young into the wine world but tremendous progresses have been done to obtain high quality wines.
"South African wines were produced already in 1690’s, but are still considered New World" Herve Pennequin
With regard to Australian wines, they have been producing wines longer than California but it was more about quantity than quality. Over the last 10 years, they absolutely raised the quality of their wines and they consistently receive acclaimed awards in International Wine Competition.
South African wines, have a longer history than even some European wine countries, for instance the Constantia wines which were produced already in 1690’s, although they are still considered New World Wines because of their flavor profile and also because as many New World Wines, the wines are labeled with the varietal.
G.C – What trend is on the horizon, what should we be getting into? Should we also be on the lookout for good wines from vineyards in unexpected places?
Herve continues… I believe that the trend is going to be just as much about style as locations… I see the focus going back to wines with less alcohol content, less concentration or overwhelming jammy fruits.
What makes a wine gracious is its balance between alcohol, body, acidity, tannins (if any) and wood (as long as the wine can accept it without losing its elegance). We are starting to see consumers liking the light Chardonnay and going away from the famous “buttery” Chardonnays.
"As for unexpected locations think Georgia" Herve Pennequin
In the winemaking, the red wines are made to be more balanced without necessary using as much oak if the vintage did not produce a wine that could accept 100% new oak. Moreover, the consumers like to drink their wine, at least here in the US, very young, freshly released, so the wines are no longer made too extracted. For instance, some great Chateauxs in Bordeaux, like Chateau Rollan de By, are changing their winemaking process to produce wines with still the earthy character of a Bordeaux but with smooth tannins, intense but delicate black fruits as flavors.
Trends are wines that could combine the taste of a “New” world wine and a “Old” world wine.
As for unexpected locations think Georgia. We are so fortunate to have a small group of enthusiast wine lovers who are producing wines that can sometimes blow you away. I am speaking of Persimmon Creek, Frog’s Town, Tiger Mountain, Wolf Mountain and Montaluce to name a few for which I give my kudos to do so well.
John Mayfield… what's on the horizon? The answer may be surprising: Lebanon and India. Let's tackle the hardest to believe of the two...
India. In the southern portion of the country, there are a range of clay hills around the town of Maharashtra that produce unique Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc. The Sauvignon is the more prominent of the two, with notes of freshly-sliced yellow bell pepper (think a topping for a salad!). Sula is the best producer.
As for Lebanon, it is not as hard to swallow. They have been at the wine-making game longer than the rest of the world. Try Chateau Musar, a hearty blend of Carignan, Syrah, and Cabernet, for a full-bodied robust wine that pairs best with roasted meats and steak. Located in the Bekaa Valley, Serge Hochar (owner of Musar) has battled a little more than the usual vintner. Missing vintages are usually a result of civil war or Hezbollah attacks, not rain or hail. There are times when mercenaries are hired to transport the grapes to the winery.
"The rule is now... there are no rules!" John Mayfield
Lebanese wines are certainly growing in popularity, and can now be seen on by-the-glass lists in Manhattan (i.e., Monday Room at Public NYC).
There are many wines on the forefront, so all that can be said is to always have an open mind. Two wine guys, two questions, some great answers! Recently we caught up with John Mayfield, Sommelier of BLT Steak Atlanta and Herve Pennequin Wine Director at The St. Regis Atlanta and asked them about New World wine and who they think has the potential to be the new kid on the wine block.The latter two are still a far cry away from making wines for the auction houses; however, major Bordeaux houses are now buying land there for future cultivation. To summarize, the rule is now... there are no rules. Just remember, we used to scoff at Washington State wines.
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St. Regis Atlanta visit www.starwoodhotels.com