In wine parlance, ‘old world’ refers to the long-established winemaking regions in Europe, from Portugal in the west to Croatia and Hungary in the east, and includes France, Germany and Austria, and the Mediterranean countries of Spain, Italy and Greece. The reputation of old-world wines are storied due to their long traditions of winemaking, and their unique regional characteristics. Among these, however, certain regions stand out for their rare, timeless and highly sought-after wines. Here’s what to expect from your glass with wines from Bordeaux, Burgundy and Rhône in France and Piedmont and Tuscany in Italy, plus our picks of the best bottles to try from each.
Bordeaux is perhaps France’s most famous wine region. Renowned for prestigious, long-lived cabernet and merlot dominant blends, it produces wines of great structure, depth and complexity. Chateau Poitevin from the Medoc left bank, where cabernet prevails, is an excellent entry. This fresh, stylish, black-fruited wine with briary aromatics is a superb match with herbed braised lamb shoulder. From the right bank, the wines are merlot and cabernet franc driven. The Dulong Reserve from Saint-Emilion is a beautiful example. This wine is aromatic; violet and bay-leaf, with purple velvety textures and sustained length, the perfect foil for a rustic white bean and sausage stew.
By stark contrast, the wines of Burgundy to the north-east are based mainly on chardonnay and pinot noir and are revered for their elegance and finesse. In particular, Chablis is noted for its unique oyster shell minerality that shines through the chardonnay fruit. This is epitomised by Patriarche Chablis: grapefruit and garden lemon with fresh sherbet-like acidity, a fine match with steamed scallops with ginger and shallot. In Burgundy’s southern reaches, gamay comes into play. These wines are typified by fine-grained tannins cushioned by red berry fruits. Roche de Bellene Bellenos Rouge is a svelte gamay-pinot blend, showing both the north and south in a single wine, and is ideal with duck confit and lentils.
Further south, the reds of the Côtes-du-Rhône pivot mainly on blends of syrah, grenache and mourvèdre. Earthy and supple, the styles range from deliciously rustic and drinkable to sturdy and long-lived. Guigal has a long-standing reputation as one of the region’s great producers and their Côtes-du-Rhône Rouge is a perfect introduction. Reliably delicious, this is a versatile wine driven by bright red fruits of grenache, structure and depth of shiraz, and spice and violet florals from mourvèdre. Pair it with Lyonnaise-style sausages.
The whites of the region are often underrated, overshadowed by the reds, but the Ogier Côtes-du-Rhône Blanc is a prime example of the versatility of their fuller-bodied blends.
Dominated by grenache blanc, marsanne and viognier, stone-fruit and white florals are infused with savoury elements of camomile and dry straw. It’s best enjoyed with dishes like roast chicken infused with tarragon.
The wines of Italy are famous for their myriad obscure grape varieties, their tannin profiles and savoury fruit, often with an austerity that challenges and excites the exploratory drinker. From the venerable wines from the north-west to the fascinating island wines of the south, their variety is extraordinary. In the rolling hills of Piedmont, where nebbiolo is king, a wine such as Maretti Langhe Rosso is a great starting point. A fine match with the region’s famous vitello tonnato, the wine is distinguished by its tannins, with pot-pourri aromas, red plums, rosehip and terracotta. Its companion grape, barbera, tends to be more acid-driven, as exemplified in the Bera Barbera d’Alba. More crimson, cranberry and fresh herbs, it’s an excellent choice with porcini mushroom risotto.
Between Florence and Sienna, the picturesque region of Tuscany is famous for sangiovese-based Chianti. The wines sit in a lighter frame, becoming progressively more complex and weighty with pedigree. The Antinori family have farmed there for more than twenty generations and their Antinori Santa Christina IGT Toscana is a generous, fruit-forward blend. Vibrant, sour red cherries and plum, with notes of tobacco and coffee, it is delicious with the pork ragu pappardelle. Maretti Chianti is from the higher climes of Chianti Rufina where the altitude moderates ripening, resulting in more expressive, aromatic sangiovese. The wine’s restraint makes it ideally suited to hard cheeses, in particular the pungent pecorino made from ewe’s milk that’s a renowned Tuscan staple.
Products featured are available from 28/06/23 to 1/08/23, while stocks last. Some products or varieties featured may not be available in all stores.