Sommelier Roundtable: New World Alternatives for Old World Palates

Bordeaux and Burgundy may be benchmarks, but we asked 8 wine pros to share picks from California, Australia, Chile and beyond that can run with the best
Sommelier Roundtable: New World Alternatives for Old World Palates
Why not Walla Walla, Washington, or Margaret River, Australia? (iStockPhoto)
Nov 16, 2018

The world of wine is more diverse than ever, but some people still insist on drinking like it's 1855, turning up their noses at anything but the fanciest names from Europe's marquee regions.

Which leaves a whole world of fine wine for the rest of us! Still, if you're a dedicated Bordeaux-phile or Chambertin-atic, you might be excited to find wines to your taste from unexpected places—and your wallet might thank you, too. We asked eight somms from Wine Spectator Restaurant Award–winning eateries which wines they'd pour to impress the most die-hard Old World palates—from California, Oregon, Washington, Australia, Chile or beyond.

Wine Spectator: What New World wine(s) would you recommend to adamant Old World (especially Bordeaux and Burgundy) partisans?

Caleb Ganzer, partner and wine director at Best of Award of Excellence winner La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels in New York

Old California Cabernet is just as pleasurable as Bordeaux with age. Diamond Creek or Dunn, specifically from the '70s and '80s. Wow!

For a Burgundy lover, there are some tremendous whole-cluster Pinot Noirs coming out of the New World that rival some of the greats—By Farr from Victoria, Australia, and Domaine de la Côte from Santa Barbara are the first that come to mind that match the aromatic complexity and finesse often afforded by the best Burgundies.

Brian Phillips, national wine director for Orlando-based Darden Restaurants, which holds Restaurant Awards for 55 locations of the Capital Grille, 15 of Eddie V's and 40 of Seasons 52

Just as there are great and also less-than-great wines in the Old World, so there are in the New World. I find Chilean Cabernets from the top well-respected producers compete with some classic Bordeaux, often at much better prices. For those fully committed to Pinot Noir from Burgundy being their go-to region, consider Mornington Peninsula, Tasmania or all of Victoria, Australia, for some top-notch and comparably high-toned versions as well. In fact, many Burgundian winemakers spend time on the south side, as they can work two vintages in one year’s time.

Andy Myers, wine director for José Andrés' ThinkFoodGroup, including nationwide locations of Jaleo and other José Andrés restaurants

I’d send the Burgundy folks to Claude Koeberle and his stunning Soliste range of [Sonoma] Pinot Noirs. Pound for pound, these are some of the best Pinot Noirs in the world. I don’t like tossing “Burgundian” around when talking about New World wines, so I will just say that these show a magnificent marriage between form and function.

For the Bordeaux crowd, they should absolutely try to get their hands on Lost Mountain or Rendezvous from [Virginia's] RdV Vineyards. It is one of the great American wines; do not let its AVA fool you, this is simply great wine that happens to live spiritually and physically between Bordeaux and California.

Sabrina Schatz, sommelier at Best of Award of Excellence winner Bobby Flay Steak at the Borgata in Atlantic City, N.J.

When a Bordeaux wine lover dines at the restaurant and asks me for a Napa Cabernet, I usually give them a Philip Togni, Mayacamas, Staglin or Larkmead. As a Burgundy wine lover, Santa Barbara Pinot Noirs, especially from Melville, Williams Selyem in Sonoma, and Big Table Farm Pinots from Oregon are my go-tos. For white Burgundy, Ramey, Peay and Hanzell in Sonoma are really good. I just got back from Santa Lucia Highlands in California, and some of the wines I tasted from Roar and Morgan had that Old World feel.

Jenni Guizio, wine director at Union Square Hospitality Group's Best of Award of Excellence winner Maialino and Award of Excellence winner Marta in New York

If you enjoy drinking older Bordeaux, there are incredible experiences to be had with old Heitz, Ridge and Diamond Creek. And I have seen these wines favored in blind tastings over first-growths.

Alex LaPratt, owner and wine director at Best of Award of Excellence winners Beasts & Bottles and Atrium Dumbo in Brooklyn, N.Y.

There's so many. There's like a bajillion. Like, Dunn Howell Mountain—any vintage. If I blind-tasted you on Dunn Howell Mountain and Left Bank Bordeaux, like Pauillac, and a similar vintage, it'd be very difficult to tell the difference.

Josh MacGregor, sommelier at Best of Award of Excellence winner DB Bistro Moderne in New York

For the Bordeaux lover, the instinct may be to seek out the wines of Napa. In this case however, it is an estate from the Walla Walla Valley in Washington called L’Ecole No. 41. [They] produce exceptional single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons, savory Merlots and arguably the most exciting Sémillon in the country. If one had to be picked for the proper introduction to their wines, it would be the Walla Walla Valley AVA Cabernet Sauvignon 2014.

If Burgundy is your first love, then it would be a shame not to discover the Maysara Winery’s Momtazi Vineyard wines in the Willamette Valley in Oregon. The savory and mineral aspects transcend all limitations of a New World wine, displaying a sense of place and terroir like few others in the state of Oregon.

Erik Segelbaum, wine director for Philadelphia-based Starr Restaurants, including Best of Award of Excellence winners Upland, the Clocktower and Le Coucou in New York; Barclay Prime and Butcher & Singer in Philadelphia; Upland in Miami Beach and Steak 954 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; and Le Diplomate in Washington, D.C.

The first wine I'd recommend is a big old bottle of get over yourself! At the end of the day, the very same thing that drew you to Bordeaux or Burgundy can draw you in other directions, and there was a point in your life where you had never tasted Bordeaux and you had never tasted Burgundy. So why limit yourself? Your next favorite wine region just might be out there.

I often describe Washington state wines as the perfect balance of Old World earth and New World fruit. Let's use Bordeaux as a model. If you like that graphite, No. 2 pencil flavor that comes out of the terroir of most of Bordeaux, and that earthiness, you get a little bit of that especially from Red Mountain and Walla Walla. But if you also want to explore the New World without straying too far, you're not as likely to get a giant, massively extracted fruit bomb as compared to perhaps the more classic styles of California. Likewise, Oregon is my go-to for if you like Old World earth, Old World fruit flavors and structures, but a little bit more ripeness without going all the way to something like Carneros or Central Coast. Basically what I'm saying is the Pacific Northwest is a really great amalgam of Old World and New World expressiveness.

I will also say that a little bit more credit needs to be given to Australia, at least what they're doing now. I've had some Margaret River Chardonnays of late that can definitely rival some of Burgundy's better producers in warmer vintages. Both Victoria and Tasmania have incredible Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. They are cool climates. You don't think about Australian winemakers struggling to ripen their fruit, but that's the reality with Victoria and Tasmania.

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