Monday, September 26. 2016
This year’s festival introduced a new concept, contrasting wines from the Old World (Europe), versus the New World (almost everywhere else). Generalising broadly, one could say that historically, the Old World was about “Terroir,” loosely defined as style derived from region and local conditions of soil and climate. The New World, with its generally more benign conditions, focused on the grape rather than the soil, believing that the grapes could be grown successfully in widely different locations, free from worry about the challenging conditions typical of traditional Old World regions.
This way of differentiating used to work pretty well. These days, however, the two solitudes have tended to resemble one another more and more. The New World has learned from the Old, discovering that terroir is important. The right varieties planted in the best locations will do better than the relatively indiscriminate plantings of the past. In turn, the Old World has begun to focus more on the grape, now producing more varietal wines, based more on the grape than the traditional regional style. Old World producers have also learned more scientific viticultural methods from the New World, greatly improving quality and consistency.
Further complicating the easy contrasts of the past is climate change. In recent years, Old World producers have faced generally warmer conditions, more akin to many New World regions. In the New World, conditions have frequently become warmer and drier, inducing producers to seek out cooler-climate regions in which to grow their finest wines. All this is dramatically changing the face of the wine world.
Notwithstanding all these factors, significant variations of style and quality still do exist between Old and New World wines, especially those from the greatest regions and producers. This year’s festival did a good job of offering the opportunity for local wine enthusiasts to compare for themselves.
Below are my picks among the wines chosen as winners in their particular categories. Keep an eye out over the next few weeks. A number of them should be appearing in limited quantities on NSLC shelves.
Gustav Lorentz 2010, Gewürztraminer Grand Cru Altenberg de Bernheim AOC, France $46.99 (Top Scoring Other White Grape). Opens with beguiling rose petal and mellow citrus scents amplified by a whiff of spice. Luscious floral honeyed yellow fruit fills the mouth showing great concentration and persistent length. What fine Alsatian Gewürztraminer is all about. *****
Adelsheim Pinot Gris 2014, Willamette Valley, Oregon 13.5% $34.99 (Top Scoring Pinot Gris and Top White Between $30-$40). For my money Oregon Pinot Gris can be more impressive than the highly reputed Pinot Noirs. This one is very pale green with delicately perfumed floral blossom and refined green fruit on the nose. Equally delicate yet fine fruit on the palate is balanced by vibrant acidity and lively mineral sensations. Surprisingly restrained but very elegant style. ****
Domaine du Tariquet Reserve Blanc 2014, VDP Côtes de Gascogne, France 12% $18.99 (Top Scoring White Blend). The wines from this lesser known region south of Bordeaux are deservedly becoming more popular. This one is an eclectic blend of the local Gros Manseng with Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Semillon. It reveals lifted floral and fragrantly ripe fruit on the nose with very green, almost grapey flavours. There is also a noticeable touch of green plum, gravelly mineral and a suggestion of lychee. An intriguing wine, bursting with flavour. ***
Lan Edición Limitada 2011, DOCa Rioja, Spain 13.5% $59.99 (Top Scoring Wine of Show). Very complex bouquet unfolds with refined red fruit, a trace of violet perfume, a hint of peppery spice and a gorgeous scent of sandalwood. It also delivers on the palate with fine black currant, raspberry and blackberry flavours in a tight tannic structure with lively acidity. Will develop further over many years to come. *****
Tahbilk Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Nagambie Lakes, Central Victoria, Australia 14% (Top Scoring Cabernet Sauvignon) $25.99. Formerly known as Chateau Tahbilk, this winery has a reputation for long-lived Cabernet that needs time in the cellar. This one shows excellent varietal character, with perfumed floral, black currant, cinnamon, clove and green herbal notes. Blackberry flavours show up on the palate backed by stiff pucker tannins and youthful acidity. Lay it down for 3-5 years. ****
Cremaschi Furlotti Limited Edition Nebbiolo 2011, Chile 13.5% $35.29 (Top Scoring Chilean Red, Top Scoring Other Red Grape). Shows remarkable Nebbiolo varietal style with scents of violets, fine red fruit and elegant spice. Very harmonious on the palate with well-integrated fruit, spice and velvety tannins. A little more fruit-forward than Old World Nebbiolo, but otherwise it could be from Piedmont. ****
*Acceptable ordinary quality
**Good quality, everyday standard
** Very good quality in its price range
**** Exceptional quality, top 15% - 20%
**** The finest possible, top 5% - 10%