Wines of the new
Wine is a part of every New World country
where the climate allows the vine to prosper. Australia, New
Zealand, South Africa, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Mexico, the
United States and Canada all have healthy wine industries, which
strive to stand on their own merits.
With the New World’s love of the freedom to innovate, it seems
unlikely that anything so elaborate as Europe’s appellation
system will ever evolve in the New World. The appellations in
the United States appears to have a more formalized and exact
system than any other New World country, though it is a long way
from the rigid controls most European governments impose on
grape growing and wine making.
The freedom to plant anything anywhere and to make the wine
however one chooses has allowed New World wine makers to respond
rapidly to changes in popular taste, but presents a challenge in
avoiding a sameness of product, a world where there is little
difference between a Chardonnay from South Africa and a
Chardonnay from Texas. What has made wine so fascinating for so
many people in the Old World and the New has been the seemingly
endless array of different wines, from different grapes types,
grown by different growers, in different conditions, in
different corners of this planet.
We will concentrate on the major wine regions in the United
States, paying particular attention to California, Washington,
Oregon and New York, as well as a brief description of the wine
regions of Mexico and Canada.
The nation ranks as the fifth-largest producer of wine in the
world and only 30th in annual per capita consumption. The United
States is the only nation in the world that requires
health-warning labels on every bottle of wine sold and is also
the only nation where many aspects of wine regulation are
controlled by the same bureaucracy, which oversees firearms (the
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, of BATF).
In 1978 the BATF introduced a system of American Viticulture
Area (AVAs). If an appellation is named on the label of a
variettally named wine, at least 75% of the named grape variety
must come from the named appellation. In addition to be labeled
as a varietal, the wine must contain a minimum 75% of the grape
concerned. If a label on the bottle states a year, at least 95%
of the wine must have been produced from grapes harvested in
that stated year. Similarly, if the wine comes from a named
property 95% of that wine must be in the bottle.
Any state is free to amend the federal legislation to require
that a higher % of the named varietals be used, as in Oregon,
where at least 90% of the grapes must be of the named varietals
(except in the case of Cabernet Sauvignon, where 75% remains the
Accounts for 96% of the USA’s total wine production. The
diversity both of California’s climate and the grape varieties
planted combine to permit the making of all styles of wine.
Within the state of California, which measure some 1100 km from
north to south, there are very wide climatic differences. A
common feature to all vineyard areas are that rain rarely falls
during the summer. Irrigation is a common practice. The cool
Pacific Ocean creates mists and fogs which periodically roll
inland to create much cooler growing conditions for the vines,
resulting in greater finesse in the wine of these coastal
regions. Inland, away from this influence, daytime temperature
can rise above 40°C.
For quality wines, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay are the
most common, followed by Merlot, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc.
Zinfandel (Italian Primitivo) is widely planted for blends, for
varietals wines and for the faintly pink White Zinfandel, once
the top selling single varietals in the United States. The
common perception of Californian wines, especially the reds, is
that they abound in fruity Flavors.
Main Viticulture Areas
The north Coast: It comprises the vineyards to the north
of San Francisco Bay. The Napa Valley being the best-known area
has the most expensive vineyard land and some of the most
prestigious wineries in California. Morning mist ensures the
climate is milder to the south, further up the valley the
climate is almost Mediterranean, and frosts can be a danger in
the valley bottom. The soil is basically volcanic. The
best-known sub appellations are Carneros, Russian River Valley,
Dry Creek Valley, Alexander Valley and knight’s Valley, Napa
Valley, Sonoma Valley, Mendocino County.
North Central Coast: There is a broad variety of soils
and climates varying from the richly fertile soils of the
Salinas Valley to the cool climate of the Santa Cruz Mountains.
The best-known sub-regions are Chalone, Arroyo Seco and Santa
Lucia Highlands, Santa Cruz Mountains, San Mateo, Santa Clara,
San Benito, Livermore Valley, Monterey County.
The South Central Coast: This is an area north of Santa
Barbara where many of the Napa Valley wineries have gone in
search of cheaper land on which to grow white grapes. The
best-known sub-regions are Edna Valley, Paso Robles, York
Mountains and Arroyo Grande, Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Barbara,
County, San Luis Obispo County.
Southern California: The general South Coast AVA
stretches in a wide arc from just south of LA down to the city
of San Diego and the Mexican Border. Within this umbrella
appellation are two small AVA’s, Temecula and San Pasqual
Valley. The vineyards in this area support mostly white
varieties, such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc,
with a small number of Cabernet Sauvignon plantings beginning to
Sierra Foothills: Zinfandel country through and through
includes the AVA’s of El Dorado, Fiddletown, California
Shenandoah Valley and Central Valley. The first three listed
AVA’s concentrate on Zifandel produced in the old style big,
hugely fruity and ripe, where what really makes the Central
Valley stand out is its jug wine production and it is known as
the ‘bread basket’ of the Californian wine industry.
Washington State contains two distinct climatic regions for
grape growing, separated by the Cascade Mountains. Overall, the
climate is cooler than California, but the daylight hours are
longer, and the growing season is also longer. The wines are
usually labeled by varietal.
There are three AVA’s and growers tend to concentrate on
Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay,
Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The naturally fruity, crisp style
favored by the climate is enhanced by cool, stainless steel
fermentation for many of the white wines however occasionally
wood fermentation and aging is practiced.
The climate in Oregon’s grape-growing regions is much more
marine influenced, producing more marginal conditions for
successful grape growing. A small amount of fruit wine is
produced (using fruit other than grapes), otherwise wine
production is from vinifera varieties, the most famed being
Pinot Noir, successful production of Pinot Gris and Riesling.
NEW YORK STATE
There are six appellations in New York State and it is
surprisingly the second-largest wine producer in the nation. As
with many of the recognized regions in Europe, what makes grape
growing possible in an otherwise inhospitable climate is the
existence of large bodies of water. The range of wine produced
is quite broad, including light, fresh Rieslings and Seyval
Blancs, but many growers prefer to work with hybrid varieties,
which are more winter hardy and resistant (Concord, Catawaba and
Fork of Long Island
There are several grape-growing regions in Mexico, of these
North Baja California and the Queretaro regions show the
greatest promise. The increase of modern equipment and methods
is moving Mexico’s wine industry away from antiquated Spanish
methods, which often resulted in heavy, dull, oxidized wine
towards wines, which appeal to the international market.
Few people around the globe have ever heard of or tasted
Canadian wine. The two main areas of wine production are the
Niagara region and Lake Erie region in Ontario, and the
southwestern part of British Columbia known as the Okanagan
The VQA system (Vinters Quality Alliance) was established to
encourage more wineries to concentrate on high-quality wine. To
earn the VQA seal the main regulations are ; wines must be made
from 100% Vinifera varieties, all grapes used to make wine must
come from Ontario or British Columbia, 85% varietals labeling,
if a DVA is named on a label 95% of the grapes must come from
that DVA. (DVA=Designated Viticultural Areas)
Given the early onset of cooler temperatures in the fall season,
the majority of the vinifera grapes grown are white varieties,
especially Riesling, Gewurtztraminer, Pinot Gris and Muller-Thurgau.
The favored hybrid grape is the Vidal, especially for the
production of Icewine, made as it is in Germany by leaving the
grapes to freeze on the vine.
THE SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE
A description of the most important wine making countries of the
Southern Hemisphere: Chile, Argentina and Brazil in South
America; Australia and New Zealand, which comprise Oceania; and
South Africa.The wines of all these Southern Hemisphere
countries have a distinct advantage over those of the Northern
Hemisphere: they can appear in the marketplace about six moths
earlier, because harvest is in February and March, instead of
September and October.
Chile is the world’s 10th largest wine producer and is
recognized as the premier quality wine producer in South
America. The growing conditions in this nation vary greatly and
because of its isolated geographic position and the overwhelming
presence of the Andes Mountains to the east, the phylloxera
louse has never plagued the vineyards of Chile. Many of the
wineries are primitive by any acceptable standards; much of the
wine is made from high yield, low quality Pais grape and then
aged in local rauli wood, which imparts a bizarre taste to the
wine. Local taste seems to be for heavily oxidized wines and
many wineries have to make two totally different styles, one for
the domestic market and the other for export.
Foreign investment in stainless steel vats and oak casks is
leading to rapid changes for the better. Chile is primarily red
wine country, and the wines can be charming, with forward fruit
and aromas and flavors of red currants, strawberries,
blackberries and red plums. Chile’s Merlot and Cabernet
Sauvignon wines often lack the complexity of the finer wines of
Bordeaux but they are food-friendly and approachable at an early
age. A good rule of thumb is to drink Chilean white wines within
two years of their vintage.
The Aconcagua Region is comprised of the Aconcagua Valley and
Casablanca Valley. The Central Valley Region is probably the
best known and is spilt into the Maipo Valley, Rapel, Maule and
Curico Valley. The final region is known as the Southern Region.
Chilean wine laws stipulate that export white wines must attain
a minimum alcohol level of 12%, and reds 11.5%. Estate bottling
is ostensibly 10%, but vintage is not regulated, and wines
labeled by varietal must be 85% of the grape type.
Reserva Especial a marketing term. The age requirement for
Especial is two years, Reserva is four years, and Gran Vino is
six years minimum.
The largest producer of wine in South America, Argentina is the
4th largest in the world. A great deal of Argentina’s grapes
musts and concentrate, produced from high yielding vineyards in
warmer areas, are exported for blending and the finished wine is
labeled as products of the importing country.
Due to high and affordability of Argentina’s finer wines ‘Vinos
Finos’, they are in demand on the market.
INV: Instituto Nacional de Viniviticultura, is the
federal regulatory body which controls pruning methods,
harvesting schedules, alcohol % and the planting of new vines.
Neither appellation nor varietal labeling is regulated however
like so many other warm climate countries chaptalization is
forbidden in Argentina.
Criolla is the historic grape of Argentina, and is the principle
varietal used for making rose wines (approx. 15% of total
production is rose). Red grapes includes Malbec, Cabernet
Sauvignon, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Cereza, Tempranillo, Nebbiolo,
Barbera, and Sangiovese. Important white grapes include
Semillon, Chardonnay, Ugni Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling,
Sylvaner and Muscat of Alexandria.
Argentina’s major wine regions include Mendoza, San Juan, Rio
Negro and La Rioja Grapes from the Mendoza region account for
70% of wine production.
In 1973, the Brazilian government, responding to the promise of
foreign investment and the possibility of an active wine-export
industry, established federal wine regulations. These stipulate
that Brazil shall produce three categories of wine: Vinho de
Consumo Corrente (local table wine), Vinho Especial (wine
typical of a particular region), and Vinho Fino, which must be
made solely from vitus vinifera, must contain a minimum of 60%
of the varietal stated and must be aged.
Brazil is the 3rd largest wine producer in South America, the
15th in the world, however Vinho Finos account for only 20% of
production. More than 75% of the grapes grown for making wine
are either Vitus Labrusca or hybrid. Common vinifera varieties
found are Chardonnay, Riesling, Semillon, Cabernet Sauvignon,
Merlot and Pinot Noir.
The world’s 11th largest wine producer is very modern and
high-tech, producing wines with clean Flavors and strong
varietals character. Almost all major varietals are grown in
Australia’s wine regions, whose soils and climates are diverse.
The major disadvantage is that more than ½ of the country is
desert, and most areas have low rainfall and very hot weather.
Although sugar levels in the grapes are never a problem, low
acid levels are an issue.
In Australia its federal Wine and Brandy Corporation enforces
Australia’s Label Integrity Programme (LIP), which guarantees
the following: a minimum of 85% of the stated grape variety must
be used; if two different types of grapes are used in a blended
wine and neither represent 85%, both grapes must be mentioned on
the label; if a geographical location is named 85% of the grapes
must come from that area; if vintage labeled 95% must come from
the stated year. The term show reserve indicates that the wine
has won a medal at a tasting competition.
Most European grape varieties are found, the most widely planted
being Chardonnay, Shiraz, Semillon, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rhine
Riesling, Ruby Cabernet, Merlot and Pinot Noir.
Producing 50% of Australia’s total it is a phylloxera-free
state. The major wine-producing regions include Adelaide Hills,
Barossa Valley, Coonawarra, Clare Valley, Keppoch, McLaren Vale,
Padthaway and Riverland.
New South Wales
The dominant grapes are Semillon and Shiraz, and this state
accounts for 26% of Australian wine production. The key
districts are the Hunter Valley, Mudgee and Riverina.
Some of the finest dessert wines of Australia are produced from
the Muscat grape grown here. The key districts include Yarra
Valley, Pyrenees, Rutherglen, Great Western, Mildara, Ghuolburn
Valley and Glenrowan.
The key districts are the Swan River and Margaret River.