Thursday, 19 July 2012

When Everything Old World is New Again...


In the world of wine, the term "Old World" refers to wines from Europe and "New World" refers to everywhere else (Canada, Australia, Chile, South Africa...). As with our societies, grapes made their way from their homelands in Europe to the vineyards of the New World. In turn, the grapes such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Riesling are the standards of fine wine in both Worlds, likewise are winemaking styles such as Port and Sherry.

Yet beyond the borders of France, Germany, Spain, and Portugal, some regions winemaking traditions that predate most of what we consider "Old." Modern countries such as Greece, Turkey, and the Republic of Georgia have centuries of traditional wine styles using a host of indigenous grapes that rarely leave their homelands. Little-known grapes like Agiorgitiko (Greece), Bogazkere (Turkey), and Saperavi (Georgia) are consumed locally but are also capable of producing red wines of a quality that can rival "classic" regions of Europe.

Within this "Ancient World" of wine producers are also countries who are new to the modern wine world but have a wine culture that dates back centuries. Holy Land countries like Israel and Lebanon are home to some of today's best labels and wine styles. Chateau Musar of Lebanon is famous for its unique Bordeaux-inspired red blends. Israel has also gained an international reputation for quality wines, with or without Kosher designation. In both these cases, "Old World" grapes have made their way to Ancient lands that produced wine long before Europe had its first vines.

While I have yet to visit the wineries in this part of the world (and I stress "yet" - a wine tour of Georgia would be fun!), these wines are are very food friendly and are the perfect match for ethnic dishes of the same area. Roasting an herb crusted lamb? I did last week and had an Agiorgitiko (the "g" is pronounced like a "y" - yes, it's all Greek to me too). Want to revisit the multi-cultural mezze I made a few weeks back? A Calkarasi/Bogazkere blend from Turkey is a perfect Pinot Noir substitute. Caviar on crackers? Well, maybe a bit too rich for my blood, but Rkatsitali-whites are surprisingly great sushi wines.

It's just a summary of a long overlooked wine region of the world, but remember that every wine journey begins with a single sip.

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