Contributed by Tom Bradley
So you know that you want to base your holiday around one of your biggest passions: wine tasting. That’s a good place to start; there is something incredibly cultured about the idea of taking off to a distant land with a whole new experience ahead of you.
However, there is one decision you will have to make. It’s one you will probably find more difficult than the decision to take the holiday in the first instance: if you care about wine, where should you go?
While the list of wine-producing countries is almost limitless in its scope, much of it for the connoisseur can be boiled down into a choice of: old world, or new?
There is no strict definition of what an ‘old world’ or ‘new world’ wine country is – it’s more a simple term used to separate the two methods of wine-producing. Old world vineyards tend to have been in production for hundreds of years and – even in the industrial age – may have stuck with older production methods. We’re talking grapes being trampled by foot, here – some really are that traditionalist.
The ‘new world’ of wine is more dynamic, exciting, and willing to play fast and loose with the established norms. They will throw grape varieties together with little thought beyond “Let’s see what happens if we do this!” Deciding which appeals to you is a big part of planning your vacation. Whether you are going with a group, your spouse, or the likes of Just You, there is definitely a wine country waiting for you – you just need to know where to look.
OLD WORLD: France
The very definition of the old world is the country we associated with winemaking above almost all others: France.
This is the land of chateaus that have been in business since before the revolution. Sweeping hillsides of vines; the land that made the word terroir enter into the lexicon of any serious wine fanatic. It’s quaint, picturesque, with the chateaus seemingly more fitting with the world of fairy tales than the grinding industrial landscape we tend to exist in.
Perfect For: Traditionalists who want to see winemaking methods and grape varieties that have stood the test of time—and won.
NEW WORLD: California
There is an innately American spirit about the winemakers of California, particularly in the valleys to the north of the state. They have everything that the French chateaus do; hillsides, sunshine, and an appreciation for winemaking as an art form.
If France is about the masters of the Renaissance, then California winemaking is the modern, daring art. Here you will find small, local vineyards of spirited winemakers who are more than up to the task of breaking all the rules of what “should” be done with winemaking. Outside of the major producers, there’s plenty of small vineyards which you can tour and then sample their wares.
Perfect For: Those who want to try something new and experiment with different grape varieties, and love a mixture of both large and small vineyards to do this with.
This article first appeared on FlavorfulWorld.com.