What’s the Difference Between Old and New World Wines?

If you want to cultivate a deep understanding of wine, there are certain terms you need to learn about first. With this in mind, the Ideal Wine Company asks; what’s the difference between old and new world wines?

History of wine making

Human societies have been making wine for thousands of years. The practise became particularly popular after the advent of Christianity, due to the role wine plays as a metaphor for the blood of Jesus Christ in the Abrahamic religion’s Mass ceremony.

This meant that the practise of wine growing became commonplace throughout the Christian world. When the countries of Christendom started colonising the lands of the new world, such as the Americas, from the 15th century onwards, they brought wine making with them. This allowed countries such as the USA, Argentina and Chile to develop robust wine-making traditions, which continue to this very day.

A question of location

The reason that the Ideal Wine Company has decided to give you a history lesson, is that the difference between “old world wine” and “new world wine” is one of location. It basically means that old world wines were made in European countries such as France and Spain, whilst new world wines were made in the lands discovered by the European colonisers, such as California.

This is the reason that some wine labels inform you of the location of their origin. You can use this as an indicator of what to expect from the vintage. According to Wine Spectator, “the climates of new world wine regions are often warmer, which tends to result in riper, more alcoholic, full-bodied and fruit-centred wines.” In contrast, “old world wines tend to be lighter-bodied, exhibiting more herb, earth, mineral and floral components.”

Tradition vs. modernisation

Location isn’t the only reason you need to know the difference between old world wine and new world wine. It’s also a question of production methods. The countries of the “old world” have been making your favourite tipple for so long, that they have developed time-tested methods and techniques which they’re loathe to abandon.

The perfect example is Champagne; producers of the luxury tipple are legally bound to follow certain guidelines, meaning they’ve been making Champagne the same way for centuries. Meanwhile, the countries of the “new world” are less bound by traditions, which means that they’re far more open to using technology and science to  improve their wine production methods.

Sample old and new world wines

Now you’ve read this article, why don’t you try what you learned out for yourself? If you buy a La Grande Annee Bollinger 1995 from the Ideal Wine Company, you’ll notice that it’s a classic old world creation. However, if you purchase a Harlan Estate 2002 from the Ideal Wine Company, you’ll soon discover how much of a contrast a new world California wine strikes, when compared with it’s old world French counterpart.

History of Tokaji Wine

When you buy a Tokaji wine from the Ideal Wine Company, you walk away with a vintage that has long been hailed as the “wine of kings.”

What is Tokaji wine?

Tokaji is a sweet white wine that’s produced in the Tokaj region of Hungary and South-Eastern Slovakia. It’s the world’s oldest botrytised wine, meaning that it’s produced through an ancient process which uses grapes that have developed “noble rot.”

The interesting thing is that we call it the world’s oldest botrytised wine, but we don’t actually know for sure. This is because nobody knows how long the peoples of Hungary have been making this classic sweet white. According to legend, people have been cultivating vines on the volcanic soil of the Tokaj region since Magyar, or even Celtic times.

Wine of kings

What we do know, according to Royal Tokaji, is that by the end of the 17th Century Tokaji had become regarded as one of the best vintages in the world by the courts of Europe. It was held in such high esteem that it was labelled the “wine of kings” by many Central European courts, and given a very special honour.

This is the time that Prince Rakoczi of Hungary turned Tokaji into the first wine in the world to be subject to appellation control. This was 120 years before France granted the same honour to the bottles of Bordeaux. The prince extended appellation control to 28 villages across the region.

Turbulent history

However Tokaji was forced to come down from this heady high as the world careened into the 20th Century and went to war. The region was a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. When the Empire fell at the end of World War One, a portion of its area was ceded to the newly created Czechoslovakia, never to be whole again.

However, the 20th Century event that had the biggest effect on the production of Tokaji was the rise of communism. Hungary became a communist country at the end of World War Two, when it fell under the influence of the Soviet Union. The county adopted Marxist principles, and Tokaji wine production was forced to fall into line. It’s bottling and distribution were monopolised by the state. However, since the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1990 a number of independent wineries have once again grown up in Tokaj.

Buy Tokaji

Tokaji is a wine that has earned its reputation as the “wine of kings,” justifying the decision to subject it to appellation control by surviving everything the 20th Century had to throw at it. See why Tokaji has remained one of the world’s most popular sweet white wines for centuries by purchasing a bottle from the Ideal Wine Company right now!

Ideal Wine: Five Questions You Should Ask Your Sommelier

If you want to secure a spectacular vintage the next time you eat out read on, as the Ideal Wine Company clues you into five questions you should always ask your sommelier.

What is a sommelier?

A sommelier is a wine waiter at a restaurant. It’s their job to cultivate the establishment’s wine list, oversee wine service and train other staff in the mysterious ways of wine. They’re also responsible for suggesting wines to diners that would go perfectly with their meal.

Yet if you’re reading this blog we bet you’ve had a somewhat mixed record with sommeliers. There are some truly fantastic sommeliers out there, however there’s also some who should never be let near a wine list. If you find yourself confronted with the latter, often you end up with a vintage that contrasts so sharply with your chosen dish that it ruins the entire meal.

Five questions to pose to your sommelier

This is why it pays to see if your sommelier knows their stuff before you take their advice. Here are five questions you should ask your sommelier before you choose a wine:

  • Where does the wine come from? If the sommelier suggests a particular vintage, they should be able to recite its history at will. The source of a wine’s origin can tell you about its character, grape variety and flavour, so if your sommelier doesn’t know where the vintage came from, they most likely don’t know the vintage at all.

 

  • What does the wine taste like? This is basic but it needs to be asked. The shoddy sommelier will use generic terms but their talented equivalent will be able to get into the complexities of the vintage they’re suggesting to you. If they sound like they know what they’re talking about, they probably know what they’re talking about.

 

  • What’s on your wine list? Simple but effective. You don’t want to utilise the services of a sommelier who’s memorised a few easy-to-remember bottles, as this means you won’t get the chance to sample the full range of vintages on the restaurants wine list.

 

  • What goes with this dish? If you pick a wine that complements your dish it can transcend your meal to new heights. A trained sommelier should be able to suggest a wine for whatever dish you throw at them. They should have worked it out through trial and error; that’s their job.

 

  • What’s your favourite wine on the list? The true sommelier is a wine enthusiast. They love what they do and if you ask them about their favourite wine on the list, they should be able to rattle off their chosen vintage before you can pause for breath. If they can’t, they lack the passion it takes to take on the considerably hard task of a sommelier.

Be your own sommelier

A sommelier’s job is to choose the wine you need to set your meal off right and have the night of your life. If they can’t do that they’re useless; dismiss them immediately, choose your own wine and become your own sommelier!

Everything You Need to Know About Fortified Wine

If you’re thinking of buying the Fonseca Vintage Port from the Ideal Wine Company, you may be interested to learn that it’s a fortified wine. If you don’t know what this means, keep reading as we’ve decided to devote a whole blog post to explaining what fortified wine is, how it’s made  and why it makes a fantastic after dinner tipple.

What is fortified wine?

A fortified wine is a wine that has had a grape spirit such as brandy added to “fortify” the final product. This brings the alcohol content of the end product up to around 17% – 20%.  The most well-known types of fortified wine are Sherry, Madeira, Marsala and Port.

You may be interested to learn that producers first started to fortify wine because they believed that adding stronger alcohols such as brandy would preserve the final product. This is true if the bottle remains sealed, however fortified wine won’t last more than a month after it’s been opened.

How is fortified wine made?

Through trial and error wine makers discovered that timing is everything when it comes to making fortified wine. The grape alcohol needs to be added to the base wine during the fermentation process. This can be used to control the sugar content in the final product.

This is because once the grape spirit is added, it stops the yeast converting sugar into alcohol. Therefore when the producer wants a dry or a less alcoholic fortified wine, they let the fermentation process run its full course before adding the brandy. However, if they want a sweeter or more alcoholic product they’ll add it once the base wine has fermented for a day and a half. After fermentation, fortified wine is aged in oak wood casks.

Why should you drink fortified wine?

The truth is that there’s no one reason why fortified wine makes a fantastic after dinner treat. The tipple’s production process has a lot of variables and this means that there are a range of fortified wines on the market and they each have different characteristics and qualities.

Yet most fortified wines have one thing in common. Even when we’re talking about a “dry” variety, fortified wines are stronger and sweeter than other wines. This is why it has traditionally served as a desert wine and can be paired beautifully with after dinner staples such as chocolate desserts, fruit torts and cheese platters.

 

China Has More Vineyards Than France!

New data has shown the Ideal Wine Company that China has now displaced France to become the country with the second largest vineyard area in the world.

The rise of Chinese wine

Once upon a time, China wouldn’t have even been a blip on the Ideal Wine Company’s radar. The People’s Republic never used to have much of a taste for wine. However, people across the one billion-plus strong nation are starting to develop a liking for our favourite tipple.

In 2013 China became the biggest market on the planet for red wine consumption, according to the Guardian. Furthermore, the emerging global superpower is evolving into an up and coming wine maker. The BBC reported that China was the eighth largest producer of wine in the world, as of 2013, and is predicted to become the largest by 2016.

China becomes second largest vineyard area in the world

New statistics from The International Organisation of Vine and Wine (IOVW) suggest that the People’s Republic is now well and truly on its way to becoming the largest wine producer on the planet. The IOVW has said that the Asian nation now has 799,000 hectares of land devoted to vineyards.

This makes China the second largest country on the planet in terms of land devoted to grape growing. The People’s Republic still trails Spain, which devotes 1.92 million hectares to vineyards but it did edge out France, a nation which is often regarded as the best wine producer in the world. Many of the Ideal Wine Company’s finest vintages come from France, especially Bordeaux.

China has a lot of potential

The amazing thing about the IOVW’s latest report is that it shows that wine production growth is far from over in the People’s Republic. It has the potential to eclipse Spain.

The report showed that the world’s largest growing economy accounted for a staggering 11% of global territory given over to vineyards in the past year. This is a meteoric rise from 4% in the year 2000. The sheer size of the country suggests that China has a lot more land it can devote to grape production.

One to watch

These figures show that China is the one to watch in terms of wine production. It already has more vineyards than France. At the Ideal Wine Company we truly believe that it won’t be long before they have more vineyards than Spain. China is making its mark on the world of viticulture and is evolving itself into a true wine superpower on the global stage.