Local Wine Co's Blog

The Balance of Taste (Old World Wines vs New World Wines Revisited) by cdbakunas
February 11, 2011, 9:26 am
Filed under: Food and Drink, Word on the Street

Blog Post from John Loughlin (thank you)

The whole Old World vs. New World wine debate is one dead horse I don’t mind riding so much.

While a lot of ink has been spilled already on this topic, most of it falls along the lines of palate preferences (terroir vs. gobsmacks of fruit), tradition vs. technology, and the myth of the noble vitner, alone in his field, trying to fend off bulldozers captained by autocratic marketing gurus decked out in drinking helmets filled with Yellowtail Chard.

What interests me in this divide is the psychology of how and why a person falls into one group or the other. Let me start by stating that from a biological angle, point goes to the New World-ers. That is, everyone knows humans are hardwired to gravitate toward sweetness. (Let’s assume that New World wines exhibit a level of obvious sweetness that Old World wines don’t.) Given the choice between a bite of chocolate or sucking on a stone, chocolate wins out every time.

So what do Old World-ers know that the others don’t? For starters, Matt Kramer’s useful definition of terroir as “somewhereness”. To employ a metaphor, an OW wine will display a unique character, not some bland cosmetic beauty, but an imperfect one whose very imperfection amplifies it. Faith Hill or Charlotte Gainsbourg? (Or, for the ladies, I suppose, Adrian Brody as opposed to Zac Efron.)

But is one inherently better than the other? Of course not. Better yet, does there lurk under such surface judgments a certain self-satisfied smugness? I am the type of person who can appreciate the difficult, the minority, the un-obvious; therefore, I am better because of it.  Any jamoke can cuddle up to a glass of Silver Oak, but it takes a special character to appreciate the Band-aid-y, pencil lead funk of a Chinon! How much of Old World taste has been achieved at or conditioned, again, since Nature’s built us to drizzle Nutella over our bowls of sugar cubes?

Looking back at what I’ve wrote, I see I’ve tap danced on the very mines I’ve laid, to quote Sting. I’ve embraced the either/or fallacy. Truth is, if I’m being honest with myself, the wines I’ve been enjoying most these days seem to bridge this black-and-white thinking. They are at once minerally and expressive of complex fruit, difficult and accessible. They are their own wonderful hybrids, taking the best from both camps and marrying them in ways that are honest and true.


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