Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Those New World Wines? No Thanks; the British Have Fallen out of Love with European Vineyards. They Don't Know What They're Missing

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Those New World Wines? No Thanks; the British Have Fallen out of Love with European Vineyards. They Don't Know What They're Missing

Article excerpt

Byline: ANDREW NEATHER

ONE taste does it. A sip of Vacqueyras, a spicy, full-bodied red wine from the hills east of the southern Rhone, and I am back in a cellar in the village of the same name, savouring a succession of powerful vintages, having just consumed a brilliantly simple meal of rosemary-scented lamb at the cafe up the road, sitting bathed in Midi heat.

That is the genius of good French wine: unlike New World wines, it tastes of where it comes from. The grapes have to be grown in the area, usually by the farmer who makes the wine - not trucked in from hundreds of miles away.

But I am in a minority, it would seem. The latest survey finds that British drinkers' 10 favourite wines are all from the New World, with California's Blossom Hill topping the list. It's very different from the same list in 1988, composed entirely of European wines.

Today, French wines especially have something of an image-problem, fusty compared to the dynamic image of their Australian and South African rivals.

Call it unfashionable, but I find these popular New World wines hugely overrated compared to the subtlety offered by so many French or Italian wines. Far too many Australian Chardonnays and South African Merlots aren't actually very interesting. They tend to be very obvious - a lot of fruit up front, but without much depth.

And while they are mostly strong - usually at least 13 per cent alcohol - alcoholic strength shouldn't be confused with power. They pack a wallop, and not much else. I recently tried a South African Shiraz weighing in at 15 per cent: a 250ml pub glass of that is the same as knocking back a third of a bottle of sherry.

Of course, there are superb New World wines. My first wine-tasting trip, in California's Russian River, was a revelation. Many of the best bargains in the UK at the moment do come from the New World - especially Chile and Argentina.

At the same time, there is bad French wine, oceans of it. A lot of what gets put out at the bottom of the market in Bordeaux is at best mediocre, and at worst - think brands like Mouton Cadet - dreadful. And prices for some better-known regions, such as Burgundy, are inflated: [pounds sterling]7, say, will buy only a pretty thin Burgundy. …

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