Old World Debates New World


Old World Debates New World

By Merrill Bonarrigo

Messina Hof has used New World versus Old World blind tastings for 30 years in order to show the quality of Texas wines versus other wines which have broad market distribution. In January 2010 we did Messina Hof versus the world in a professionally-judged Twitter tasting. All have been successful and all have opened the eyes of those who participated. At the Durango Wine Experience, Paul and I were challenged in the same technique. Stephen Gonda and William Davis debated the characteristics of New World versus Old World wines.

In the Old World debates New World session, we tasted 4 Old World wines versus 4 New World wines in two flights. One flight was white wine and the other was red wine. The characteristics that we were prompted to use for the evaluation were:

Old World New World

Earthy || Fruity

Leather || Clean

Lower Alcohol || Higher Alcohol

Terroir || Varietal Character

Older Oak || Newer Oak

Spice || Jammy Fruit

Tart Fruit || Overripe

Fresh Fruit || Lush Fruit

Under ripe || Opulent

In each pairing, the differences proved true. If you taste the wines blind and focus on these traits, it is much easier to identify Old World versus New World. One is not better than the other. They are different. The wines that we tasted in the white flight were Taittinger La Francaise Brut NV versus Schramsberg Blancs De Blancs; Les Hospices Sancerre 2012 versus Galerie Sauvignon Blanc Napa 2012; Pierre Sparr Pinot Gris 2011 versus La Crema Pinot Gris Monterey 2012; Laroche Les Vaudevey Chablis 2009 versus Wind Racer Russian River Chardonnay 2009. The red wines were Ponzi Tavola Pinot Noir 2011 versus Wind Racer Russian River Pinot Noir 2009; Tardieu-Laurent Les Becs Fins Cotes Du Rhone Villages versus Yangarra Grenache 2012; Arcanum Valadorna 2008 versus Gainey Merlot 2010; Prelius Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 versus La Jota Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mtn 2010.

Where Old World wineries focus on history, context, and terroir New World wineries are not beholding to tradition but take advantage of the land of opportunity with innovations, new clones, new earth, new varieties, and new blends. With that being said the New World seeks what the Old World has historically and in establishing its own legacy and sense of place. Old World seeks innovation freedom and new markets.

Messina Hof benefits from both. As a Texas winery Messina Hof is part of the New World Wine. Texas is one of the fastest growing wine producing states in the USA. And innovation is no stranger to Messina Hof. We were the first to make port without the addition of brandy, to utilize double barrel aging in brand new French Oak and brand new American Oak, and to maximize the potential of all grape varieties that can grow in Texas. Messina Hof comes from an Old World legacy in Messina, Sicily and is now continuing in the second generation of family winemakers here in Texas.

We recognize that there are 2500 different decisions that go into winemaking. The New World awareness of those decisions provides a distinct advantage to the New World. Respecting the Old World tradition and bettering it with New World technology gives the wine consumer interesting choices.