New World wines originate from countries that were colonised by the European powers. They tend to be higher in alcohol and fuller bodied and have bold and fruity flavours. Here we find the USA, Argentina, Chile, Australia and South Africa. Wine makers under this classification are happy to get experimental and eagerly take advantage of modern advances in the making of their fermented grape juices. Be sure to get yourself one of our suggested bottles.
While the Romans were great at expanding wine production around Europe, it was the Spanish who brought it further afield and ensured that it was produced on every corner of their New World colonies. Thus it was the Franciscan monks who are said to have first planted grapes in California in the late 18th century. The grapes were planted at Mission San Juan Capistrano near Los Angeles and were named Mission grapes. The first Californian harvest dates back 1782 when Southern California was the heart of the early wine industry and settlers planted vineyards along the banks of the Los Angeles River. In the 1870s, there were so many grapevines that Los Angeles was nicknamed the “City of Vines.” Production shifted to San Francisco in the 1890s, when wine houses dominated the industry. San Francisco’s temperate climate, with its summers cooled by fog, made it an ideal place to store wine. By the 1890s, there were more than 100 wine houses in the city.
ABC (Anything But Chardonnay): if you’ve never heard someone say this before, you probably will one day. The origins of the statement hawk back to the 1990s when California started churning out large volumes of cheap chardonnay that tasted sickly sweet and overly oaky rather than crisp, light and fruity.
Historically, Chardonnay became ubiquitous as a result of two factors: first, unique amongst varieties, Chardonnay will thrive anywhere you can ripen grapes. Second, Chardonnay produced in France before the phylloxera epidemic was considered the greatest, most expensive and highly regarded white wine of all.
When you encounter someone who vehemently rejects Chardonnay, it is likely that they have come across too many cheap pineapple-chunk flavoured with a hint of fake oak varieties. There are still a lot of big, rich and over the top Chardonnays out there today but that does not mean that’s all there is to it. Each year more unoaked Chardonnays are produced and they are crisp, zingy and full of character. Today, it is the best-selling wine in America, red or white. Americans consume over 840,000 bottles per year.
Owning a vineyard is all the rage amongst modern celebrities. Famous vineyard owners in California include: Francis Ford Coppola, David and Victoria Beckham, Drew Barrymore, Fergie and Lil John.
Oak Ridge Chardonnay
Aromas of fresh apple and pear notes with a hint of honeysuckle blossom. It gives a soft mouthfeel of creamy vanilla and toasty oak, and can be paired with seafood, tilapia and roasted chicken. Ksh 2,200 at Salt Bar & Grill
A relative newcomer on the global stage, Chileans have in fact been producing wine since the Spanish brought vines with them in the mid 1500s. Before the 1990s however, the country was only really known for producing affordable sauvignon blancs and cabernet sauvignons. The carmenère grape was a French variety that was thought to have been wiped out during the phylloxera epidemic, until a group of French scientists discovered it had survived in Chile under the guises of being a simple merlot. This discovery lead to a boom in Chilean wine production and a newfound respect across the world, and the country now strives to develop luxury wines and take advantage of its climate to create some of the world’s best organic varieties. The valleys of Chile receive an ideal combination of soil, sunlight, temperature and humidity and its vines have the advantage of being able to resist infestation due to the natural geographic barriers that have long protected the country from the arrival of Phylloxera and other diseases.
Chile’s climate ranges from hot and dry in the north to cold and wet in the south. Average rainfall varies dramatically by region with ranges from just two inches in the Elqui Valley to more than 50 inches in southern coastal regions. Mountainous climate helps create a wide temperature variation between day and night, which is vital in maintaining the grapes’ acidity levels.
Major reds produced here are Carmenere, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir. Major whites are Chardonnay, Pedro Ximenez, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Sémillon, Viognier and Muscat of Alexandria.
Casillero Del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon
Cherry, plum and coffee aromas with strong tannins that end elegant and juicy. Get it for Ksh 1,145 from 63 Wines to pair with red meat, lamb ribs and spicy stews.
Cocha Y Toro Frontera Merlot
Has hints of cherry, ripe pepper and soft cacao on the nose with an elegant and rounded body. Get it for Ksh 655 from Viva Global to pair with your grilled beef, beef stew and minestrone.
Unlike the previously discussed New World wines which were all grown to satisfy the demand of local populations, wine production in South Africa began as a way to quench the thirst of Dutch sailors who in the 17th century would stop in Cape Town en route to India. It is reported that these wines were pretty unpalatable so in 1679 the Governor of Cape Town took it upon himself to plant a vineyard in his farm Constantia. The resulting wine was very sweet and became the famous dessert wine of the day.
Despite its distance from Europe, during the 19th century, South Africa was not spared from the phylloxera epidemic which completely obliterated its vineyards and much of the 20th century saw the country isolated due to Apartheid-related boycotts. When the market finally opened up at the end of the 20th century, less than 30% of all the grapes harvested were used for wine aimed at the consumer market, with the remaining 70% being discarded, distilled into brandy or sold as table grapes and juice. By 2003 these proportions had reversed with more than 70% of the harvest that year reaching the consumer market as wine.
The Cape winelands are found at the Southernmost tip of Africa and enjoy a Mediterranean climate with cool, wet winters and warm dry summers. The mountain slopes and valleys form an ideal habitat for the wine grape, Vitis Vinifera, and the sea breezes from the Atlantic and Indian oceans cool the vineyards during the warm summer afternoons. This results in a long ripening process which creates a series of intense fruit flavours that make South African wines really stand out. The top five grape varieties here are Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Colombard, Shiraz and Sauvignon Blanc. Kenya actually imports more South African wine than any other sub-Saharan African country.
KWV Chenin Blanc
Aromas of freshly cut grass, canned peas, ripe paw paw with
hints of guava, and is vibrant and fresh with linear acidity and an enduring finish.
Get it for Ksh 835 at Slater & Whittaker to pair with salads, sushi, seafood and white meat. This is available at Slater And Whittaker
Nederburg Winemaster’s Reserve Merlot
Well rounded with aromas of plums and blackcurrant with red fruit flavors and elegant tannins. Pair with roast beef, and get it for Ksh 1,635 at Chandarana, Nakumatt, The Wine Shop, Vintage Cigars, Havana or Nederburg
Four Cousins Natural Sweet Red
Ripe plums, strawberries and exotic spices followed by a soft lingering finish, with aromas of soft rose petal. Get it for Ksh 675 at Slater & Whittaker to pair with spicy food, desserts and fruit salad