Old World vs. New World Wines: Who Cares?


It was with equal parts delight and disappointment that I left WineStyles’ weekly Thursday evening tasting. Delight because the tasting was so overwhelmingly excellent, and because I’d bought a bottle from the tasting, along with another bottle of sparkling wine that promises almond notes that I felt I just had to try. Disappointment in myself, however, for not having the conviction and strength to stay true to my self-promise that I’d not buy any more bottles until I’ve whittled down my collection. And I was making such good progress too! Thirty bottles down to 22… AH! I really can’t afford to keep running out and buying new bottles – there will come a time when I can start a real collection and enjoy the luxury of lovingly counting out the dozens of bottles (e.g. when I have a bigger wine fridge/cellar), but now is really not it. Damn it. I should have known better to bring my wallet along. Oh well. What’s done is done. Now I have to recommit to my stand, and perhaps boycott non-BYOB restaurants in the meantime.

But man, the tasting! It was a very well thought out selection comprising of Italian and California wines. Sihao, Bruce, and I were so taken with all five wines we tried, that we had to re-taste all the wines – quite a few times at that – so we could pick favorites. In the end, Sihao left with two bottles, a beautiful example of a Gewürztraminer from Silverlake, and a delicious and what I call ‘lite-port’ dessert red wine from Cagnina di Romagna in Italy. I finally settled on the John Christopher Cellars 2003 blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Syrah because I was so taken with the heavy nose of black currants, black cherries, and all kinds of other fruit and spices. Jenel recommended pairing it with some BBQ pork tenderloin which I can totally see would make a delicious combination, but frankly, I’m more than happy to drink it alone.

My tasting notes:

Silverlake Gewürztraminer 2006: Beautiful floral notes in the nose, not so much the lychee, but the fruit was discernable in the body. Nice weight, and a long, pleasant finish.

Howling Wolf Pinot Grigio Lodi 2004: I think I have to rethink my stand that pinot grigios are simple white wines just meant as refreshing beverages for a hot summer’s day. In the last few weeks, I’ve sampled pinot grigios that have stood up for themselves, and asserted their uniqueness, including this example. I love to be proven wrong however, and I’m not one who tastes wines in the hopes of disliking them – what would be the point??? The Howling Wolf is a fuller bodied pinot grigio, with flavors of ripe fruit – peaches and melons perhaps – combined with some mineral notes. Again, I liked the weight of it.

John Christopher Cellars Epic 2003: My favorite for the evening, though it was really quite difficult to pick and choose sides. It’s a classic example of California (and New World wines) – explosive aromas of black fruit that just leaps out of the glass. I picked out notes of black currant (my base standard of comparison being Ribena) and black cherries. And the fruit aromas extended to the mouth-feel as well. Smooth and velvety. Very full bodied wine, and again, very nice weight. The spicy edge of the wine from the Petite Sirah was further complemented by the pieces of salami we had.

Narciso Nero D’Avola 2005: I recently tasted two bottles of nero d’avola wines from Sicily at an Italian restaurant, so I was quite excited to try it again. Coming right after the Epic, this wine felt quite a bit lighter in weight, more restrained – not as full bodied and luscious. The nose was a lot more toned down as well, more mineral notes than bold fruits (as is usually the case for Old World wines). It smelt and tasted a little hot, and brought to mind images of hot tires on hot tar roads.

Adesso Cagnanina di Romagna 2007: As I said before, like a port in style, except lighter both in weight and alcohol content, thus, ‘lite-port.’ Much less syrupy sweet than port, a perfect after-dinner accompaniment, even for those who profess not to like sweet wines I reckon. It was quite simply sublime with the pieces of dark chocolate proffered. By the way, ‘adesso’ means now in Italian, so perhaps this 2007 bottle is not meant for keeping?


2 responses to “Old World vs. New World Wines: Who Cares?

  1. I bought the Narciso Nero D’Avola and the Adesso Cagnanina di Romagna because I don’t have examples in my little collection.

    It is hard for me to call the Pinot Grigio “fuller bodied”. It is very well made, but I would have liked it better if it had more taste. Overall, I liked this wine the least amongst the 5.

    The Epic, I thought, was very uncharacteristic of “California” (the viticultural region, not the state) wines: (a) I smelt Zin but primarily tasted Syrah (b) It was also quite balanced. “California” labelled wines tend to use the cheapest grapes because they can, and this was the major reason why I was very surprised by its quality — I had very low expectations of it to begin with 🙂

    The Gerwurz was amazing the 2nd time we tried it after tasting all the other wines. I felt it is almost as if our palate opened up and I was able to taste all the fruit in it. Funny thing is I didn’t taste much lychee … Did you?

  2. haha, a review of the epic online said that it tasted like a cabernet sauvignon… i think you’re still just biased against californian wines in general. heh.

    re the gerwurtz, i couldn’t smell the lychee in the nose (the ny wine we had last dgs had much more distinct aromas), but i did taste some of it in the body. i don’t know why i thought you’d bought that instead of the adesso. i guess bruce was the one who was talking of buying it.

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