Each country – and even each region – has different wine styles depending on climate, grape variety and winemaking techniques. Broadly speaking, Old World wine (including France) has more subtle aromas with more structure while New World wine (from Australia, for instance) usually has more ripe fruit characteristics and a smoother mouthfeel. However, it’s not that clear-cut these days because winemakers are travelling more and learning from each other in terms of both viticulture and vinification techniques. Indeed, wines from southern France can taste like Australian wines and some Margaret River wines from Western Australia can taste similar to classic French wines. We should judge all wines by quality, not by their origin.
For the Old World (mainly European countries), wine is part and parcel of most meals. Most wine-growing regions have their own native grape varieties. These local wines go especially well with local food. Sangiovese, an Italian grape that is particularly well known in Tuscany, has high acidity and cherry notes that go well with the tomato-based dishes of Tuscan cuisine. On the other hand, Nebbiolo, from the northern Italian city of Piedmont, is a well-structured, big wine that is perfect with the region’s rich beef dishes.
However, this doesn’t mean that New World wine (countries outside Europe) is second class. Most New World wine is fruit driven, which is great without food or as an aperitif. As mentioned earlier, there’s a big patch of grey area between New and Old World wines, so there is definitely more structured wine from the New World that is food friendly.
The point is that wine is a social drink. It’s all about the people and atmosphere around us. So what if you’re served the best Bordeaux in the world, but you’re made to share it with a person you don’t really want to talk to – I bet you wouldn’t enjoy that wine at all. In contrast, if you are with your buddies, any wine will be enjoyable.
Don’t judge a wine on its perceived value. Some rustic wines that are not on the radar of any wine critics taste brilliant with the right food, people and atmosphere. A great example is roasted baby pig with dry, young sparkling red wine (vinho verde tinto) from Portugal.
Your own palate matters as well. You don’t need to like a wine that others prefer. I don’t like abalone even though it’s an exquisite food enjoyed by many people. Wine is the same. If you don’t like the style of Bordeaux, don’t feel bad. There’s a lot more wine out there waiting to be discovered!