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Wines of the new World

 

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.

NORTH AMERICA


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.

UNITED STATES

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 minimum).

CALIFORNIA

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.

Grape Varieties

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 show promise.

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

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.

·      Columbia Valley
·      Yakima Valley
·      Walla Walla Valley

OREGEON

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.

·      Willamette Valley
·      Umpqua Valley
·      Rogue River Valley

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 Niagara).

·      Lake Erie
·      Finger Lakes
·      Cayuga Lake
·      Hudson River Region
·      Hampton Long Island
·      North Fork of Long Island

MEXICO

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.

CANADA

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 Valley.

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


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.

ARGENTINA

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.

BRAZIL

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.

AUSTRALIA

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.

South Australia
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.

Victoria
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.

Western Australia
The key districts are the Swan River and Margaret River.

 

 

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