The earliest New World winemakers in the 18th and 19th centuries generally followed the principles of the wine making techniques present in European countries at that time, with the intent of creating wines that strongly resembled those obtainable in Europe. However, their own climates and soils were totally different; often having to put up with sweltering temperatures never encountered in the Old World homeland. For example, settlers in California found the scorching heat was too much for the production of superior Wine grapes, until finally they realized the valleys of Napa as well as Sonoma could take advantage of the gaps within the Coastal range of mountains which sucked in cold air and fog from the ocean, providing the essential cooling element so necessary for top class wine.
New World wines are usually defined as “Wines produced in regions established by colonies of European exploration, which started with a number of the longer voyages in the 15th century.”
Put simply, New World wines are all those developed in areas other than Europe and the Mediterranean countries.
It was during the 1960s, when traditions ended up being questioned, and boundaries were coming down, which gave New World Wine its chance for worldwide success. Brought about within the US by men such as Robert Mondavi and in Australia by Max Schubert of Penfolds, there came the desire to change and improve on the Old order. This arrived in combination with a complete rethink of how to explain and market the wines.
Initially, the New World were simply using well-known names from the Old World; “Australian Burgundy” and “Californian Chablis” became commonplace. International law quickly caught up with this particular practice, however, ruling that Burgundy or Chablis are only able to be made in Burgundy or Chablis. so even though the New World producer would use identical grapes and identical techniques to produce a top quality version of one of these famous wines, he could not use any name which the customer would recognise.
These producers soon came to the conclusion that it was the flavour belonging to the different grape varieties that was the single most important factor in their wines, and arrived at the solution of varietal labelling.They highlighted the grape variety on the label, their own name, and left it at that. This has changed the whole way we think about, speak about, choose – and most importantly – buy Wine. We now know the importance of the various grapes, as it is these varieties, as opposed to the place of origin, that is stressed on the label. We are all now used to ordering a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir or a Rioja. No other idea has made the enjoyment of Wine so easily accessible to every one.
This accessibility has led to a willingness to experiment: to purchase and experience the type of wine we enjoy, no matter where it was made, New World or Old World. Now the Old World has recognized that it must move into this modern World so that it can compete and survive, and the naming of grapes on labels has become almost as popular in Europe as anywhere in the winemaking World.
The task for the newer producers is to produce wines which have the high quality of the originals from the Old World, that will have the staying power to keep them being purchased and enjoyed by wine lovers around the world. This really is all good news for us; it means that we have a larger choice of wines than ever before, from a wider variety of places. Additionally, it means that we have a opportunity to experience what some of the world’s best wines have to offer – at a reasonable price.