Remember the time you planned a nice evening out, confidently ordered nibbles for the table and then cracked that Britannica Encyclopedia series sized wine menu? You flip through the pages desperately looking for a familiar name, all the while telling yourself to relax, cuz you've totally "GOT THIS!" Before you've even gotten to page two, the somm walks over and inquires to what style of wine you would like this evening. Sweaty palms ensue, confidence is in the crapper...
Circumstances like this happen more often than not. Here are a few tips to avoid this uncomfortable situation.
1) What's Your Style? There are a couple different styles, Old World versus New World. Old World wines are those made in countries where winemaking originated; France, Italy, Spain, and Germany. New World wines are in the large part from the the rest of the world, United States, Australia , Argentina, Chile.
A glass of red wine from the Old World, will be softer, less tannic, earthier and have a lower alchol content.
Technology has granted New World vintners the ability to create Old World style wine. Harvesting grapes earlier, treating them with the utmost care, and using less oak during a shorter aging process or simply age them a little less will result in an Old World style wine.
Each one of the above wines, especially with age, will have an earthy component that will please the most discerning Francophile.
New World wines exhibit a bolder structure, bigger tannins, heavier on the fruit and lighter on the earthiness, and will pack a bigger alcohol punch.
Techniques that are used in making these style wines include increased hanging times for the fruit, longer fermentation periods and the use of brand new oak barrels in an extended aging process.
2) Compare! Try a bottle of each type side by side and determine what you like.
I guarantee the next time you face off with the resident sommelier the experience will be way less stressful!
Oscar De La Villa Jr. ~ Sommelier French Laundry, Napa, CA
All opinions are my own.