South Africa Dividing New & Old World

  • Posted: September 27, 2014 
  • by bryan   -  
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When I’m breaking wine down into simple categories based on style I generally start out with the obvious. Does a customer want red or white, oaked or unoaked. This enables us to then focus on more nuanced qualities like – fruity or earthy, full or light bodied, tannic or soft – allowing us to get that one step closer towards a selection. It’s at this point where I’ll fall back to one of my favorite questions. Do they prefer new or old world.

The most obvious reference I give for new world would be California wines and even though such an extreme simplification of the region would open a colorful debate among a roundtable of wine geeks, this description would certainly fit for the most widely known mass produced California labels.  New world wines are ripe, plush, full bodied and soft. They are ready to go in their youth and generally clean without polarizing aromas and flavors.

When I think of old world wines I immediately imagine French and Italian wines, both of which can bring a little barnyard, earth and herbal qualities that would stick out like a sore thumb in Californian or say, Australian wines. Ripeness is not always a given as the line between ripe and under ripe become blurred in temperate climates like Bordeaux or Piedmont. Simply put, I expect old world wines to be more tannic, more demanding of patience and more moderate in alcohol levels. Their acidic backbone also pegs them for cellaring or their desire to be paired with food.

Finding those wines that straddle the line between old and new world is one of the more satisfying discoveries when tasting. I’ve had some success with Malbec from Patagonia that brings bright fruit and chiseled structure that wouldn’t necessarily hint at its origin of Argentina. I’ve also found some Chilean blends that more in common with Bordeaux than their national brethren. But wine for wine I’ve had the most success with South African wines showing both old and new world characteristics.

Tormentoso’s Mouvédre from the Paarl region of South Africa is a new wine at the shop that is an appropriate example of what I’m getting at. Juicy, gamey and smoky on the nose, it shows ripeness while also revealing a meatiness and funk that points to old world origins. The palate is cloaked in polished new world richness while ultimately yielding to tension and structure. It finishes lean yet powerful at the same time, a tough task to pull off in any part of the world.

After pouring it one of Aroma’s Oles Farm Dinners, the response was so positive the store brought it in. For more information on buying Tormentoso’s Mouvédre click here.


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