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Old World versus New World

Have you ever thought that maybe we’re all from the same root stock?

Or, how about this? What if, over the millenniums, that same root stock blended many cultures, people, foods and traditions together to form who we are today?

We are, whether we like it or not, a blending of the New World and the Old World and we carry that blending in so many ways.

For instance, I grew up having to eat lutefisk at least twice a year. It became easy enough to eat when prepared properly; it was smothered in butter and one got past the, shall we say, slipperness of the food. Of course, the aroma was … well, let’s just leave that topic for you to imagine. But we ate the fish because it was a tradition brought to us by our Norwegian grandfather.

We tried to blend that tradition into our family for many years but, once grandpa was gone, it died quickly. However, we have those wonderful memories of all of us eating a plate of it and those memories continue to bind us together.

Another example is the wine we drank in the “good ole days.” If we had wine, it was Mogen David. The issue was that it just tasted like Concord grapes, smelled like them and wasn’t very exciting. It was very mundane and that tradition exited the family very quickly at a certain point when, again, the parental influence was gone.

Sometimes it’s hard to continue Old World traditions in the New World but the efforts are sometimes very worthwhile. For instance, in the world of vinology, there is a great divide and distinction known as Old World wines versus New World wines, and the two will never be under one label.

The most common wine species in the world today is Vitis vinifera. Its roots go long into the past in Europe and northern Africa and, when the world beyond those regions began to be settled, the Vitis vinifera root stock traveled with those early settlers.

Of course, that root stock traveling led to conversations between the two parts of the world and many competitions were held, many words pontificated and punches thrown to prove which wine was better — the Old World or the New World wine.

The truth of the matter is both are terrific in their own ways and the two wine worlds have leaned to coexist peacefully and to enjoy the positives of each region’s wines. What does each “world” bring to us?

When one is discussing Old World wines, you are talking about Tradition (That capital T is meant!); you’re dealing with history (Thousands of years of wine growing and making.) and it’s all about terroir (The combined characteristics in which the wine is grown — its soil, climate and topography). These wines tend to be more nuanced and subtle.

When you discuss New World wines, you’re talking about clarity (Each bottle label clearly tells you the grape varietal and where it’s grown.); the science of wine making (What new techniques are being tried in making wine) and you’re going to become acquainted with the winemaker (That person who is responsible for the way the wine tastes, smells and flourishes). These wines tend to be more fruity and fresh tasting.

Do you notice some differences between those two definitions?

For example, if you are looking at a bottle of Chateau Ste Michelle Riesling, the label will clearly tell you the state and region of origin, the type of grape that made the wine, the vintage, sweetness and a bit about the producing family. By looking at the bottle, you’ll easily note the wine is medium sweet, has the requisite stony and noticeable citrus taste for a Riesling. Try it, you’ll like it!

Now turn to a bottle of Montecillo Rioja from Spain. On the label with the grape varietal (Tempranillo), you have the word Crianza. If you not aware of what is being said, you might think Crianza is a grape variety, too. Nope! It’s a wine designation meaning the wine is aged for at least two full years. Don’t let that stop you from enjoying this beautiful fruity wine with very tasty vanilla notes.

Learning how to read a wine bottle’s label can be a daunting affair. Many of the European wine bottles (Think French wines…) are challenging to understand and that can be fun or just plain frustrating.

However, don’t let the Old World labeling stop you from enjoying the beauty of their wines. Additionally, don’t let the clarity of the New World’s wine label stop you from focusing on the wine and the specialness of it.

Blending is good. Whether we are talking about blending folks, foods, stories or traditions, we all improve by learning more about the other item or person.

However, lutefisk hasn’t passed over my lips in many years. One day I’ll have to re-visit that family tradition but it will probably wait until summer so I can air the house!

As always, eat and drink in moderation but laugh with reckless abandon!

Cheers!

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