Understanding New World Wines
Barbera Wine (red)
The second most widely grown wine grapes in Italy, the best examples come from the Piedmont region such as Barbera d’Asti or Barbera d’Alba. In regions like California, Barbera tends to be blended with other grape varietals, but is also bottled alone.
Cabernet Franc (red)
One of the five major varietals of Bordeaux, Cabernet Franc is often used as a blending grape but can be bottled by itself.
Cabernet Sauvignon (red)
Perhaps the best-known red wine in the world, Cabernet Sauvignon has its home in France but spectacular versions can be found in many countries. It produces wines with complex, distinct flavors and excellent potential for aging.
Popular in most countries, Chardonnay is an ancient white wine grape that can be made in a number of styles from lean to opulent, stony to buttery.
Chenin Blanc (white)
Chenin blanc is a versatile white wine grape grown under several different names throughout the world. Both dry and sweet versions are common. Vouvray is a well-known example of this wine.
Full-bodied and distinctly aromatic, this white wine grape is not easy to grow and lends itself well to cool-climate growing regions such as Germany and New York’s Finger Lakes wine region.
Spain is likely the ancestral home of this hearty red wine grape but it has been highly successful in many regions including France’s Rhône Valley, Australia and California. Grenache is both a blending grape and a stand-alone offering as a red wine and is also made into rosés.
Another of the top five varietals in Bordeaux but used as a minor blending grape. Malbec has found a better home in New World countries, especially Argentina, where the dry climate produces stellar results.
Merlot is the most widely planted grape in Bordeaux but it is popular around the globe as a stand-alone bottling. Depending on how it is grown and handled by winemakers, Merlot can be either a simple everyday red or a long-lived collectible.
Muscat is really a family of white wines with several variations such as Muscat of Alexandria or Muscat Blanc. Made in dry, sweet, and sparkling versions this ancient grape family is cultivated throughout the world.
Created in the South Africa wine country as a hybrid of Pinot Noir and Cinsault, Pinotage produces deep red wines that are fruity and brambly but styles vary so there is little consistency in the marketplace. It is mostly experimental outside of South Africa.
Pinot Blanc (white)
Pinot Blanc is a close relative of Pinot Gris and produces light, dry white wines with good acidity but little aroma. Sometimes used as a blending grape.
Pinot Gris (white)
Also known as Pinot Grigio in Italy, this white wine grape is a clone of Pinot Noir. It does well in Oregon, parts of northern Italy and the Alsace region of France.
Pinot Noir (red)
Notoriously finicky to grow, Pinot Noir is the red wine grape of Burgundy. In the New World, good success has been achieved in Oregon and cooler areas of California. Complex, full-bodied and rich, Pinot Noir is capable of producing some of the very finest wines available.
Petite Sirah (red)
Often confused with Syrah, Petite Sirah’s is the name given to the Durif grape in California and is only a cousin to the Syrah grape. Dark, intense and tannic, Petite Sirah ages well but is often used as a blending grape, especially with Zinfandel.
Riesling’s soul is in Germany but good examples can also be found in many countries. Riesling makes excellent dry and sweet white wines that are unique, pair well with a wide variety of foods and can have good aging ability.
The primary grape of Italian Chianti, Sangiovese is a medium-weight red wine with a good acidic structure that compliments food.
Sauvignon Blanc (white)
Sometimes labeled as Fume Blanc in California, this refreshing light white wine is typically high in acid and has zesty flavors that range from fresh-mowed grass to grapefruit.
Made in both dry and sweet versions, Semillon is perhaps best-known as the primary grape in the world’s most highly touted dessert wine, Chateau d’Yquem. Blends with Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon are common in France. Chile grows the highest volume of Semillon.
Shiraz and Syrah are the same grape varietal, but Shiraz became the name of the wine in Australia, South Africa and other locales.
The major red wine grape of Spain, Tempranillo is the basis of wines from Rioja and other areas. It is often blended with other grapes to produce a dark, rich red wine with excellent aging capabilities.
A dry, highly aromatic wine that often smells like flowers or perfume, Viognier is growing in popularity in many winegrowing regions. Deep gold in color and weighty, Viognier is not very high in acid and is often used as a blending grape but can be spectacular as a stand-alone bottling.
Although it’s considered a California native, Zinfandel has its roots in the Old World country of Croatia. Red wines made from Zinfandel can be dry, fruity and robust or when very ripe, more like Port. In the 1980s a rose of Zinfandel made in slightly sweet style started the White Zinfandel craze that remains popular today.