by Tracey Claridge

In the 1970s the choice of wines available on the High St was poor. Brands such as German Blue Nun Liebfraumilch, Bulls Blood from Hungary, Mateus Rosé from Portugal and Mouton Cadet from Bordeaux were benchmark styles of what was popular at the time. These all came from Europe, the Old World. Wines from South Africa, Chile, America. New Zealand or Australia, were rarely seen, indeed Antipodean wine was the subject of derision in a well known Monty Python sketch: “Chateau Wagga Wagga, guaranteed to open the sluices at both ends!”

So what has changed? It is a combination of technology and climate. I lived in Australia in the early 1980s and spent a lot of time in the Hunter Valley. It hardly ever rained. ut there The vines were watered on a drip irrigation system. There was seldom any vintage variation, so it’s possible to produce virtually the same wines, year in year out. But as the New World produces a plethora of reliable wines every year, Old World wines are liable to greater annual variation. How are you supposed to know what is a great, good or less good (we don’t say bad any more) vintage? Especially as every year is a great year at first growth Bordeaux Chateaux like Margaux!

Well, technology has improved so much in the last 20 years there are no really bad wines anymore (although I did buy a wine recently from a garage at £3.25! It had a French name, the grape variety on the front label stated Shiraz, and it was a product of Italy! £2.60 of that is duty! It was decidedly “less good”). Education is the answer and there are many wine guides

Well, technology has improved so much in the last 20 years there are no really bad wines anymore (although I did buy a wine recently from a garage at £3.25! It had a French name, the grape variety on the front label stated Shiraz, and it was a product of Italy! £2.60 of that is duty! It was decidedly “less good”). Education is the answer and there are many wine guides out there but the real way is to try as many bottles as your palate and pocket will allow. It is only by going ‘off piste’ and trying both Old and New World wines will you be able to find out what you really like. There may be more disappointment to be had in the Old World, but there are always more gems.

  • Next issue… Closures, screw cap and synthetics vs cork.

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