Wine: Old World vs New World. What's the difference & why should I care?

Posted by David Bowley on

Old World vs New World. Wine Bottles looking good.
It sounds like something from Lord of the Rings. 'This wine is from the Old World'.

I'm sure like most people you've heard this phrase muttered and wondered WTF does that mean and why is it even important?

Good news is, it's not that important to your enjoyment of wine. Plus once you've had it explained the concept is super simple.

Fundamentally wines made on the European continent are all wrapped up in the Old World moniker. Countries with thousands of years of history like France, Italy and Spain.

Wines that originate from countries with only a couple of centuries of history, such as Australia, the USA and New Zealand are the ones referred to as New World.

What's the difference?

Old World wines are the benchmark. They are the old guard. The wise old prophets.  
They tend to carry flavours and aromas that are not indisputable.  'Structure' and 'balance' take precedence. That's another way of saying these wines have savoury and rustic types of flavours. Ever been to the zoo? Take a big whiff of Old World wine and you might have a flashback to the zebra enclosure.

New World wines are those we are used to in Australia. Typically slurp-able thanks to their freshness they are seldom subtle, with a big lean towards fruit driven flavours. Not too many zebra's here. These are clean cut looking and tasting.

Why are they different?
Chiefly due to winemaking philosophy and style.

Old World winemakers tend to follow tradition. Many harvest by the cycles of the moon. A lot make the wines exactly the same way year on year to ensure the same light touch is applied consistently. Their aim is true expression of the earth and season in the bottle, with minimal intervention by the hand of man.

New World winemakers are said to take a much more analytical approach to their craft. Somewhat science based. Without the restrictions of strict tradition, grapes are harvested at the measured optimum ripeness. Wineries may use specially produced natural additives for control and predictability. And perhaps most influential, New World wineries tend to employ strict sanitation during production to prevent the influence on flavour and aroma of any unknown yeasts or bacteria. 

Another major difference is the labelling.

Old World wines elevate the vineyard or region of origin above the variety and even the winery itself. Their laws specify the grape varieties allowed to be grown in each different region. By knowing the vineyard, or the winery, the variety is established without having to say so. 

These laws don't apply in the New World giving winemakers freedom to grow the varieties they want wherever they choose. Promoting the Winery and the variety first is the established routine. 

New World is clean, fresh, crisp and consistent. Pinot Noir.

Old World is complex, funky and interesting. Gevrey-Chambertin. 


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Tip: That bottle you take to a friends house says more then you think

Posted by David Bowley on

We call them dust collectors. One of those bottles a friend brought over for dinner, but never intended to drink. You know what I'm talking about. You might even be guilty of it. 

Friends over for dinner
When an invitation to come over for dinner or a catchup is extended, it's a no-brainer to take a bottle along, right? Therein lies the travesty.
A no-brainer requires little or no mental effort. But, the wine you choose to bring says a lot more about you then you might realise.
You need to impress, and if you want to borrow-a-charger right after you arrive, consider your choice carefully.

Here's our tips for selecting that perfect bottle. 

Style selection

Chances are you don't know what's on the menu. No problem. In the Spring and Summer look to crisp whites for their versatility. Riesling or Pinot Gris are great options as the fresh acidity gives them the mouth-watering element of the perfect aperitiff. 

If you prefer to slurp red, thinking lighter will get it done. Good Pinot Noir has the structure of some bigger wines without the mouth stripping tannin and alcohol. If your looking to play it safe, Tempranillo or Touriga Nacional have that fantastic medium bodied style and are so food friendly you can't go wrong. iPhone charge: 35%

Fun on the outside 

The fact is, we eat with our eyes, and the same is said of wine. A great looking label is going to make an impression on the table. Wine is a multi-sensory experience so embrace that and use it to your advantage. Wow them with that dynamite label before a glass has even been poured. iPhone charge: 73%

Do to others as you would have them do to you 

Would you be impressed if someone bought a $9.99 bottle of plonk to your place? Pfft. Spend a bit extra. No one want's to hear the story about that $50 bottle you got for $15. Everyone knows those wines are probably $15 for a reason. 

Be prepared, have some good stuff in your rack or use our 5 tips for choosing kick ass wine at the bottle shop. Note tip # 3.  
iPhone charge: 99%

Now instagram that dynamite label and pour your host another glass. 


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Hiding behind a mask. Wine varieties by another name.

Posted by David Bowley on

Hiding behind the mask
In show business, names are as interchangeable as romantic partners. Reginald Kenneth Dwight? Try Elton John. Chaim Witz? That's Gene Simmons. And Norma Jean Mortensen? Marilyn Monroe. Let's not even start talking about Prince

Did you know in the world of wine names can be interchangeable too? It's usually geographical, but sometimes just to mess with you, there's more then a few Norma Jean's on the shelves of your local bottle shop or on a wine list, moonlighting as Ms Munroe. 

Get to know these varieties and choosing your next drop get's a lot easier. 

Here's our guide to de-coding those strange sounding names. The general rule? Start by following the first letter. 

Let's get going with Grenache. This bolshy grape is one of the most widely planted in the world. So much so that September 23rd is now known as Grenache Day. It's big in the Barossa, big in McLaren Vale, but elsewhere, the Spaniards love it too. In the land of jamon and bullfights, it's called Garnacha.
Both wines have distinct softness, evolving to a medium weight and a lipsmacking finish. Look for wines grown as bush vine due to the lower yields and more intensity.

Gee. Grenache and Garancha got game.

Ask for a Shiraz anywhere in the world but Australia, and you might get a quizzical look in return. Shiraz, as we call it, is considered a style of it's own; bold and rich and with alcohol levels above 14.5%. Syrah is the same smack-in-the-face grape. Typically, it has a slightly lower alcohol, and the flavour leans away from the rich jammy fruit of Shiraz and towards pepper and spices. 

So. Shiraz. So similar, Syrah.  

Sometimes blended with Garancha and Syrah is their friend whose names start with M. Mataro is the traditional name for it in Australia but if you see Mouverdre, as it's known in France, or Monastrell, as it's known in Spain, you know you're drinking the same hearty wine known for plump fruit wrapped in a matrix of those mouth puckering things called tannins. 

Mataro = Mouverdre = Monastrell. Mmm. 

On the white side of things, the letters game is over sadly. But it's not rocket science.

Crack open a Fume Blanc and that familiar aroma will hit you. Asparagus, grass, tropical fruit, the overwhelming need to eat camembert immediately. This is a Sauvignon Blanc by another name.

Fume translates to smoke (thinks fumes... or plumes) and here in Australia this name is often used for Sauvignon Blanc that has spent time in oak barrels. The oak lends the wines greater depth and slight toasted and smoky characters. 

It doesn't matter what name it wears, good times live in every bottle. So next time you get the chance slurp a Syrah and suss out the differences for yourself.


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Five tips for choosing a kick arse wine at the bottle shop

Posted by David Bowley on

Australians love a good drop. At last count, we knock back around 460 million litres of it a year, which pretty much guarantees that at some point in the next year,you'll find yourself staring at racks in Dan Murphy's with analysis paralysis

Tips on navigating a wine shop

There's plenty of tricks that bottle shops use to get you to choose a certain wine, too.  Placement on shelves, gold label stickers, massive discounts, fancy names for wine that really should belong in a cask and not in a bottle. Luckily, you're smart and discerning and you read this blog, so you will not be fooled by such trickery.

Find a good bottle of wine is EASY. Just follow the rules of the smart wine buyer: 

1. Choose the right shop.

The big bottle shops are everywhere.  They're convenient, and the way they're laid out makes it seem like you're getting a bargain.  But did you know many independent wine stores charge around the same for good bottles?

Seeking them out is step one, and they're not just places for collectors or wine snobs. 
Going to a well curated local wine shop will increase your chance of finding a fantastic wine. How?

They have the added benefit of stocking the wines from more artisan wine makers that don't, or can't produce the volume of wine that the big chains need. Plus, you're supporting your local economy, so you'll have a warm glow that lasts beyond the bottle of Shiraz.

2. Talk to the staff.

So often this can be then fast track to satisfaction. People working in a wine shop are almost always genuinely excited about what's surrounding them. Nothing would make their day better then talking about the differences between the Barossa and Margaret River and why you should match Riesling with your Oysters.

3. Don't get hung up on price.

Wine might be the greatest physical expression of the old adage, "you get what you pay for". We all want that amazing bottle for under $20, and they do exist, albeit very rarely. Take it from an insider, there is a chasm in quality between $20 and $25. Sacrifice 1 coffee a week and put that $5 towards a slightly higher priced bottle and you'll see exactly what I mean.  Be brave and tip over the edge into $30 and you'll really be in business. 

4. Plan ahead.

Give yourself some time to browse. A snap decision made on the spot could lead to regret later. It's always better to have a few minutes to browse the shop, talk with the staff and consider the occasion properly. 
It is dinner? If so, what's the cuisine? Do you know what matches with that?
Sauvignon Blanc doesn't go with everything.  There is a big difference between the right wine for a pool party lunch with friends and one for an romantic dinner for two.

5. Why play it safe?

Easy and safe feels comfortable, sure. You might feel secure selecting a Barossa Shiraz with three gold stars on it, or a NZ Savvy that looks like you've seen the label before. Remember those tricks we mentioned up top? There are as many wines as there are stars in the sky, so why are you always looking at the sun?  Every once in a while, try a variety that's new or a wine from a place you're not familiar with. How great is that feeling of awe when you're blown away by something new you've uncovered?

The most important step of all? Relax!  It's wine not brain surgery. Follow these steps you should nail it. But if you miss the mark, chalk it up to experience. If you're like us, chances are you'll have the chance to do it all again real soon. And that means you're closer to that slurpingly good bottle.  


photo credit: Wine Republic
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Why you should put Red Wine in the Fridge

Posted by David Bowley on


A meaty glass of red wine is one of life's greatest pleasures.  And it's easy to plonk a bottle straight from the wine rack onto the dinner table.  Unlike white wine which needs a good chilling in the fridge, red wine makes sense at room temp, right?

No. Not always.

In Australia, our room temp isn't always ideal. When Steve Smith and the Aussie XI are punishing the Kiwis on a sunbaked MCG, your wine rack might be sitting in a room that's 25 degrees. And a Shiraz served at room temperature on a warm summer night may look sophisticated as hell, but it's actually a furry proposition. The tannins (that puckering dryness) will be exploding. The wine will taste overly rich and alcoholic and at $30+ a bottle, ain't nobody got time for hot wine.  You'll end up wishing you'd wasted your tastebuds on a Midori Sunrise instead. Yuk.

Numbers of red wine sales are booming with two-thirds of us now preferring to slurp red over white. Still the big guys pump out the same beastly reds they always have. This is where you can get creative and with our help, find the wines that can be drunk chilled in the middle of the Aussie run chase. 
You read right.  Red wine. Chilled. 

Lighter reds that taste great from the fridge include Pinot Noir, Gamay and Montepuliciano. How cold you ask? Experiment to find what you like but aim for 10 to 14 degrees. Give it 20 minutes in the fridge before serving. Chilled reds generally taste spicier. Less powerful. With fruit flavours that are more like cherry and red berry. Refreshing for a hot day. 

Next in line are the medium bodied varieties and blends, with many to choose from: Grenache, Cabernet Franc, Tempranillo and Sangiovese.  Pop them in the fridge for 20 minutes and serve them with caprese salad and you'll notice how fresh the wine becomes. 

When it comes to the big guns – full bodied reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz or Merlot, are best avoided. If served above ideal temperature they take on hot and alcoholic characteristics. The fruit flavours will resemble raisins. You can tell if they're too hot by the taste - they'll seem overly rich and mouth coating. If that's all you have in the wine rack, it's not the end of the world, just be gentle with the chilling and keep a cold glass of water on hand. 

Our tips for cooling things down on a hot day? If you can't find the fridge, break ranks and throw a cube of ice in there. Give it a swirl.  Leave the ice in for a minute while people look at you quizzically and then fish it out and discard it. Bringing the temperature of the wine down will allow its best expression, as the winemaker intended, and the most satisfying feeling for you. 

Rules are made to be broken.  Stick to the light bodied reds and get into some serious cool summer drinking, you red head. 
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