Beyond Burgundy: The New World finds its way with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay

Thursday, 10 January, 2019, Jacopo Mazzeo
From big-fruit ‘varietal wines’ to joyless Burgundy-lite pastiches, the New World has taken a while to get its head around Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. But, says Matt Walls, there is a third way – and it’s working

What does New World Chardonnay taste like? What about classic New World Pinot Noir? It’s a question that was easier to answer in the 1990s, when the ‘international style’ was easy to spot among leaner, more savoury Burgundies.

But since the mid-2000s, the major New World countries have been chasing a more elegant expression of these most quintessentially food-friendly grape varieties. Today the lines have become blurred with their Old World counterparts. But what has driven this rapid stylistic evolution?

Have we gained ‘Burgundian’ finesse the world over at the price of diversity? And does the increased focus on terroir herald the end of a discernible ‘New World’ style?

Grape expectations

Burgundy is the benchmark, as the origin of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. It has been the heartland of these grapes for two thousand years and it is home to 1,200 delineated ‘climats’. Some, such as Clos de Bèze in Gevrey-Chambertin, were referenced as far back as the 7th century. For an industry that fetishises provenance and heritage, this is stuff money can’t buy.

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