Australian and New Zealand wine expertise comes to the UK
To mark the Negociants UK winemakers tour, where winemakers from Australia and New Zealand come to the UK to share their passion for wine and perhaps divulge a few of their trade secrets, we’ve been thinking about how place defines the wine that it creates.
The wine trade is truly global and in Secrets of wine, Giles Kime highlights the sheer diversity of winemaking and the variety of different regions where it is produced. Could you tell the origin of your glass from just a sip? Here’s what Giles has to say:
Wine falls into two categories: the stuff that reflects the winemaking tradition of the region where it was produced and the sort that tastes as though it could have been made anywhere in the world where the sun shines enough to ripen grapes. There’s not much wrong with the latter; the huge advances in winemaking technology in the last decade have made it possible to produce good-value wines virtually anywhere. What sets these two kinds of wine apart is something that wine buffs call ‘typicity’ – meaning that they conform to a certain style that is typical of the wine’s birthplace. How important is this quality? If wine is enjoyable to drink, surely to worry about typicity is nothing more than splitting hairs? Possibly. But a world without wines that reflect their origins would be very boring. Which would you rather do? Drive hundreds of miles through the unchanging landscape of the American plains or wind your way through the ever-changing scenery of France, Italy or Spain?
When it comes to wine, variety is undoubtedly the spice of life. While the consistency of ‘global’ wines might offer a convenient option for everyday drinking, the highs and lows are provided by wines that taste of the place they come from. There are parallels between winemaking and cookery. The people of every region of the world have their own tastes in food that are influenced by the available ingredients, the climate and the gastronomic tradition that has evolved over the years. Precisely the same is true of wine.
A sense of place versus a suggestion of terroir
Describing a wine as having a ‘sense of place’ could easily be confused with suggesting that it expresses terroir. Though terroir does contribute to the sense of place, the typicity of a wine has more to do with winemaking tradition – the style of wine created by techniques such as oak ageing and blending. The grim reapers of the wine world might make gloomy predictions that typical wines are being replaced with ones that have no regional characteristics, but the fact is that these two kinds of wine can coexist happily side by side.
Where to find typical wines
Although it is easy to see typicity as a quality that is peculiar to European wine
regions such as France, Italy and Spain, some New World areas are developing their own styles and winemaking traditions. For instance Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough in New Zealand tastes very different from Sauvignon from Western Australia, and Barossa Shiraz has a style different from Shiraz made in South Africa. Here are areas where you are likely to find more typical wines that are true to local tradition than homogenous ‘global wine’.
|The New World
The Mosel Valley
The South of France
|The Barossa Valley
The Clare Valley
The Hunter Valley
The Margaret River
The Napa Valley
If this has got you in the mood to find out more about wine, you might be interested to know that Infinite Ideas soon to publish a new addition to the classic wine library, the sixth edition of Sherry by Julian Jeffs. It’s available to preorder now.