Jonathan Palevsky followed yesterday’s lecture on Old World wines with another today about wines of the New World, including the US, Chile, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. [Palevsky hosts WBJC’s “Word on Wine” radio commentary weekly on Thursday – click here for more info!]
He told us about the Hungarian man, Harasty, who brought vine clippings over from Europe in the 1940s and planting them on land that was later purchased by Robert Mondavi Sr. Mondavi was the first to bring the German way of labeling wine by the varietal, not by the region, as French wines are labeled.
Palevsky discussed the 1976 world blind wine tasting event in which the French snickered about the American wines that eventually beat them – both reds and whites from Napa. This was a revolution in the industry and put the US on the winemaking map.
We learned about how white Zinfandel – of which six times more than red Zinfandel is sold – is made, and why it was made to begin with. In the mid 1970s, American producers began making white wine with red grapes as white wine’s popularity grew and Americans had a taste a bit more on the sweeter side. White Zinfandel is made from the same Zinfandel grapes that can create a big, fruity, sometimes spicy flavor. Winemakers drain a bit of the juice out if the barrels and let it ferment less time than the juice still sitting with the skins, so the juice stays sweeter and does not absorb the skins’ color. Almost 10% of the wine sold in the US is white Zinfandel, and not surprisingly, Gallo is the major producer of it.
Palevsky spent a little bit of time on my favorite wine producing region, Australia. “Love it or hate it,” he said, “you have to recognize the sheer audacity of Shiraz.” Shiraz is Australia’s signature wine. It’s “huge bodied, enormous jammy upfront fruit, maybe a little bit of eucalyptus,” he said. Most Shiraz is flavored with and aged in American oak.
I spent a little bit of time in the McLaren Vale in Australia a few years ago and have definitely developed an affinity for wines from that region. I particularly like Sauvignon Blanc from Australia or New Zealand.
It’s a drizzly spring day so we toured the inside of the winery and looked out over the rows and rows of grape vines, and then enjoyed a tasting-sized flight of six wines and a box lunch before leaving Millbrook, the Hudson Valley’s flagship winery.