Simple rule by appellation stated again:
American wines are principally controlled by their varietal
name whereas European wines by their place of origin or appellation
. This means that American wines are, by way of example, marketed with the name of a varietal, like chardonnay, minimally have to have 75% of that varietal in the bottle. This is not to say that American wines totally ignore appellation. Just that it is lower down on the pecking order of wine priorities.
European wines tell you where the wine is from prominently on the label and must meet all the rules of that named on the label location. Again, they are controlled through local rules which are generally tighter the more precise and specific the place that appears as the appellation name on the label. These rules are less strict the more general the appellation. The "older" and more experienced that, for example California, becomes with the fact that the same grape grown in different locations produce different flavors, the more with time these generalizations mute over time. You can refer to my blog comments about this very issue.
For some reason this is a very difficult concept for the average wine drinker today. Think of it as follows: you live in a town or city, right? And that city is part of a county or the equivalent, and that county is part of a state. That state is part of a country. Each unit has wine laws that control the types of varietals authorized, rules of production, etc. The more localized and specific the appellation, generally the more predictable the wine is, of better quality., and commands a higher price.
Granted, a general rule for wines, both American and European, is that the more specific the location down to a specific vineyard, the more expensive the wine. Examples would be California vs the more specific Napa Valley a place within California or Bordeaux vs the more specific Margaux, a place within Bordeaux. You would never see Languedoc command the prices of Pauillac in Bordeaux but it is entirely feasible for one county in California to try to vie with another.Using Chardonnay from Burgundy as an Example
Sticking with chardonnay
in Burgundy mentioned in the preceding web page, By Wine Varietal,
there is also the classification of wines from that region into hierarchies of different levels based on the actual vineyards: Premier Grand Crus, Seconds Grands Crus and Troisiemes Grands Crus. There is a hierarchy institutionalized into law for how good the wine is and how it is to be made. No such thing exists in the New World. The New World is more flexible but leaves quality more up to the individual winery which the individual can increase or reduce whenever they want to, even during the vintage; remember, many wineries have more than one bottling. The New World is, as I say, a marketer's dream, an open slate on which to draw their vision ... for better or worse
Let's use the example of Puligny-Montrachet, Troisiemes Grand Cru, Le Champ Canet. Understand that the wine could pretend to any of these appellations I am about to give but unless there is some flaw that makes it necessary to have a lower appellation, for economic reasons you would obviously take the higher to which you are entitled. The difference in price is enormous.
- French table wine
- Burgundy wine
- Meursault Le Champ Canet
Say you are a person who made a wine from Le Champ Canet and you made a little more than that very specific appellation allows? You would have to sell the excess to be part of a more generic Meursault blend. With a New World Winery, to play with over production, you play with your reputation; the Old World seems to follow a different route hoping to let it not reach that level because once someone transgresses against the appellation, it is no longer a game involving just their personal wine. White Wines
Acidity and Alcohol
(Higher levels of either, especially acidity, tends to aid longevity) High alcohol wines that are young, highly fruity and low in acids (due to either special fermentations that lower acids such as malolactic fermentation or not being fermented to dryness leaving behind fruit sugars) are the young wines the modern public seems to prefer. These wines are more difficult to store than wines which are higher in acids.
On the chart below, "H" signifies higher, "M" is medium and "L" tends to lower: remember...these are broad, relative generalizations.
For alcohol, typically Low = 9 - 11% , Medium = 11 - 12.5% and High = 12.5 - 14%
I. The Family of Wines Based Upon Chardonnay
|Origin||Alcohol||Acidity||Years for Best Drinking|
|Australia||M / H||L / M||2 to 4|
|Chile||M / H||L / M||2 to 4|
|Mendocino||M / H||M / H||3 to 5|
|Napa||H||L / M||2 to 5|
|Sonoma||M / H||L / M||2 to 5|
|Santa Barbara||M / H||L / M||2 to 5|
|La Bourgogne (Burgundy) La Côte de Beaune||-||-||-|
|(Puligny, Montrachet, Meursault etc.)||L/M||M / H||3 to 15|
|La Basse Bourgogne (Chablis)||L/M||H||3 to 15|
|Chalonnais - Mâconnais (Pouilly, Fuissé, Mâcon)||L/M||M / H ||3 to 5|
|Languedoc||M/H||L/M||2 to 4|
to be continued..........