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Oct 30, 2011 08:51 PM

New world wine in the old world?

I don't know how many Europeans read this but I wonder, do Europeans drink new world wines? Would a hip Spaniard drink an Aussie red, or could one find a South American Malbec in Italy, an Oregon Pinot in France? Have any travelers seen American or Aussie wines in Europe?

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  1. I think that it would depend on what is available to one locally. Next, it would depend on the tariffs, etc., for various wines.

    I am a resident of the New World, and drink about 60% New World wines. However, I do travel to the Old World, and almost half of my wines come from there. In Europe, and the UK, I cannot recall the last time (other than the Intl. FC lounge at LHR), that I have had a New World wine. Much is because of the availability of really good New World wines, and next is the price for those. While there are many OZ New World wines in the UK, most are not worth drinking. The few US wines are also rather low on my scale of drinkability, and then the prices are really "premium." I cannot recall the last US wine (other than cited above), that I had in Europe, or the UK, and with good reason - they are not good wines, and not even close to good values.

    Now, if a drinker in the UK could get one of Robert Biale's Zinfandels at ~ £20, then maybe things would change, and in a big way. To me, buying a Woodbridge Cab for £80 is not a worthwhile option. I can get that for about US $ 20, and in Europe, or the UK, I can get wines from producers, that I never see, which are MUCH better deals. Why would I pay ultra-premium for a mediocre US wine? No way. I am Old World, and all the way. I cannot imagine that locals would feel any differently.

    Just some things to think about, and some might not be as meaningful to locals, as they are to me.


    2 Replies
    1. re: Bill Hunt

      Thanx for reply.
      I don't know much about the limits on imports and tarifffs and such, and that makes so much difference. We (in the US) seem to get wine from everywhere and at all price points and chosing between a French Burgundy or a US pinot is a matter of personal taste as opposed to regional bounderies or market protection. Do Aussies drink American wine? Is our wine market like most of our other markets, open for import but given little access to export.?

      1. re: budnball

        I am not an Importer, and have never worked for one, but I would say that our borders (US) are pretty open.

        As for what is available in OZ, I cannot state, but know that some of their wines are produced with the US (or UK) as a target, and that some of those are not available in OZ, at least not exactly as we see them.

        Most of my off-continent experience is in the UK, as when in Europe, we are usually sticking pretty closely with the wines of the country, and even the region. Predicated on the US wines that I have encountered in the UK, I seldom even bother looking at that page of the wine list, so probably have missed something. Still, my UK wino buddies know little of US wines, and from what I have observed, with good reason. Now, I have recently seen more US wines on UK wine lists, so probably do need to read a bit more closely, and also compare prices, as those do change. As we host several dinners in the UK, I often get PDF's of the wines lists, so do have the option to see and compare a bit more. Out of habit, I skim over most of the US wines. I will now do better!

        I also think that the tariffs on US wines might be different, than say for wines for OZ. Maybe an importer, who deals with the UK and Europe can either verify my suspicions, or shoot them down.


    2. I live in California and spend 6-8 weeks a year in Britain. I feel the visibility of new world wines there is very high. You see a lot of wines from Argentina, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and even the U.S. on the shelves in supermarkets there. Much of it sells in the $8 to $15 range.

      My guess is countries in Europe that produce wine (France, Spain, Italy, Germany, etc.) mostly drink the wines they produce. Countries in northern Europe (Holland, Denmark, Sweden, etc.) likely consume a much higher percentage of new world wines.

      1 Reply
      1. re: DavidT

        I have also observed an increase in South African and Argentinian wines, especially the Mendoza Malbecs. I still see more FR, IT, GR and the OZ wines, in the UK. One minor observation is that the higher-end wines seem to definitely be from FR, IT or GR, with very few high-end OZ wines. Again, just casual observations, and not from any scientific studies.


      2. usually in wine producing countries people drink their own. i used to know some such people who would never touch anything else. and why not, it's cheaper and closer.

        yes, new world wines are _also_ popular in some (western) European countries. (North) American wines are very unpopular here.

        how delighted i was to see wine menus in Chile, they categorise the wine by valley/region/area. only Chilean wine. they don't even want to drink their neighbour's or anyone else's wine!

        i drink them all, but it comes down to the location. wherever i go i try my best to drink what that country produces. (the most painful was 3 trips to China :) )

        1. I live in CA, but I grew up in France and I travel to France regularly.
          New World wines are almost impossible to find, and what few USA wines
          are available are low-end unattractive wines. The main problem is that
          there are a lot of quality French wines at a relatively attractive price
          point (say 8 to 12 euros per bottle). If you factor in shipping costs, American
          wines cannot compete. In addition, as mentioned earlier, French drink primarily
          French wine. They hardly drink Italian or Spanish wines. Furthermore,
          they usually drink wines made in the area where they live-- people from
          the Rhone Valley, Alps and Provence drink mainly Rhone Valley wines,
          People from Alsace drink Alsacian wines, people from Burgundy and Champagne
          drink Burgundian wines and Champagne, people from Brittany and Normandy
          drink hard cider, etc.... The food and drinks of each area are usually well matched
          to each other (like crepes and cider, cassoulet and cahors, etc...)

          5 Replies
          1. re: bclevy

            Thanx for reply. This what I suspected. You may know then if the French wine we get in California at the $15-30 range would be considered "quality".

            1. re: budnball

              K&L wine attempts to bring quality French wines to CA at a reasonable price.
              However, in my experience, the ideal location in the USA to get the best of
              the New and Old World wines on an even playing field pricewise is the East Coast.

              1. re: bclevy

                Historically, the finer imported wines, and certainly FR wines, has been the NYC area (spreading out to surrounding areas). NYC rather started the trend, and much of the US has just not caught up yet.

                As mentioned in other replies, many will drink what is local, or at least from within the boundaries of the country, so it should be no surprise that more US wines are consumed in the US.

                Now, California, though blessed with some excellent wines, does seem to have followed NYC's lead, and in general, is doing a better job of diversity in the wine department. Just returned from a resort area, with a couple of higher-end restaurants. I complimented the sommelier in each, on the selection of FR wines. In both cases, each told me that until very recently, they had zero wines from outside of CA, but the patrons had been asking, and especially for FR wines, and they each listened. Fairly recently, each had expanded their list beyond the state's boundaries, and even beyond those of the US. While I might be typified as a "nationalist" on some fronts, when it comes to wines, I am an "equal opportunity" drinker - it's about what goes best with the food on my table.


                1. re: Bill Hunt

                  >>> Historically, the finer imported wines, and certainly FR wines, has been the NYC area (spreading out to surrounding areas). NYC rather started the trend, and much of the US has just not caught up yet. <<<

                  How far back are we going?

                  It's only natural that -- historically (although much of the following applies even to the pre-Prohibition US, let's keep this in the post-World War II era) -- wines were imported through the East Coast of the US, as a) that's where the population is, and b) it's closer to Europe -- where "all" the imported wines come from (again, in the days following World War II, no volume of wine of any consequence came in from Australia, New Zealand, Chile, or other locations closer to West Coast ports).

                  Temperature controlled containers changed all that, and a number of top flight importers are located on the West Coast -- the most notable being Kermit Lynch, North Berkeley, Rare Wine Co., Old Bridge (mostly Australian; perhaps they shouldn't count), Beaune Imports, Broadbent Selections, Martine's, Wilson-Daniels, Charles Neal, D'Vine (Germans) -- all in the SF Bay Area; and Classic Wines (mostly Spanish) in Seattle. Then there are the grey marketeers like Adventures in Wine, Aabalat, Premier Cru -- again, all in the SF Bay Area.

                  New York remains home to the "big guys" like Kobrand, Diageo, etc., unless they moved for tax reasons to a smaller state, and Shaw-Ross is in Miami (naturally). That said, certainly Louis/Dressner is in NYC, as is Skurnik; Neal Rosenthal is in upstate New York; Bobby Kacher is in DC, and Kysela is not too far away in Winchester, Virginia; and Jose Ordonez is in Mass. Of course Eric Solomon and De Maison are both in North Carolina, but how Hand Picked Selections and Weygandt-Metzler survive in Pennsylvania, I have no idea!


                  1. re: zin1953

                    I was speaking more of what was being offered at the restaurants and then at retail vs the location of the importers, but probably did not make that case well enough. I can see where the distinction could well have been clouded.

                    Going back to post-Prohibition, yet pre-WWII, most of the US did not see many FR wines, much outside of NYC. That did begin to change, with post-WW II, as many returning soldiers had experienced FR wines, and began asking for them. Still, at the restaurant level, they were not that easy to find, much beyond NYC. At before that time, there had also been a push from the West Coast, from Chicago and from Miami, as a lot of those folk had traveled to NYC, and had been exposed to the wines of FR.

                    Sorry for the confusion,


          2. Considering how many "cult" Napa Valley Cabernets I would "import" from Europe . . .

            Every high-end winery *loves* to claim their wines are sold in Europe, and certainly you can go into well-respected wine merchants in London, Paris, Berlin, etc., and you will be able to find some California Cabs like Shafer Hillside Select, Dunn, Harlan, Bryant; Meritage blends like Opus, Insignia, Dominus; Merlots like Matanzas Creek, Duckhorn, Pride; and so on . . . AND you would have found them on containers I was shipping FROM Europe *back* to California!

            That said, at one time Paul Masson sold a MILLION cases a year of their 1.0L carafes in the UK, and you can find a lot of Gallo, Mondavi, and other "big name" wineries in the more moderate end of the price spectrum. Still, however, if one ignores the capital cities and looks within the wine producing REGIONS themselves, California wines of ANY kind or price are much more difficult to find! (Hell, it's hard to find Burgundies in Bordeaux and Bordeaux wines in Burgundy, for that matter!)

            As for your question/comment:

            >>> You may know then if the French wine we get in California at the $15-30 range would be considered "quality". <<<

            a) Define what you mean by "quality."

            b) Often, an inexpensive wine from the Languedoc, for example, will be sold directly to the "supermarché" chain from the producing cave cooperative. Such direct sales from cave-to-US retailer are rare. Trader Joe's does some; so, too, people like K&L. Most of these wines, however, are sold "ex cellars" to the US importer, who arranges for transport from the cave to a freight consolidator (for a fee, of course). The consolidator/export agent will fill the (hopefully temperature controlled) container and get it loaded onboard a ship (for a fee, of course) bound for, say, the Port of Oakland (hopefully stored below the waterline . . . for an additional fee, of course). Once the ship arrives, the customs broker (for a fee, of course) will run the proper paperwork through Customs and Excise (taxes are paid, of course), as well as through the TTB (for a fee, of course), and the importer will arrange for a trucker to haul the container from the Port of Oakland -- once it has cleared -- to his warehouse. Then the importer will sell some of the wine to a wholesaler (for a profit, of course), who will -- in turn -- mark it up and sell the wine to a retailer. The retailer again marks it up, and sells it to you . . . .

            Margins are thinner than you might imagine, and it is not uncommon for the bottle that sells for, say, £12.50 in London or €14.50 in Paris (approx. $20 retail) to sell for $28-30 here . . . admittedly, sometimes it may sell for the equivalent of $16-18, but it may also sell for as much as $25.


            4 Replies
            1. re: zin1953

              I like what you wrote, but will state that I see few "cult" US wines on any wine lists, and only at retail, such as Berry Bros. & Rudd. Now, I DO see them in several non-wine cities, such as Tokyo.

              I have also observed the strong regional aspect, where wines from just across a boundary are not seen in THAT region.


              1. re: Bill Hunt

                <I have also observed the strong regional aspect, where wines from just across a boundary are not seen in THAT region.>
                I guess that is true even in California, I almost never see a Washington or Oregon bottle around here. They can be found but one has to look.

                1. re: budnball

                  I would speculate that it's because of regional support, though most high-end restaurants, where I have dined, in CA have a rather broad wine list, though a few DO focus on more localized wine producers.

                  I see more of the "regional" aspect in FR and IT. For instance, though a restaurant might be in Sonoma, there is likely not a dearth of Napa wines, or even Amador/Sierra Foothills wines, or Santa Cruz Mtns. wines. Still, I do often see a wine list that is heavy with CA wines, and almost to the exclusion of other producing areas. That seems to be changing, at least in the restaurants, that I frequent.

                  I also feel that some restaurants made a bit of a political statement some years back, and reworked their wine lists, to focus on US wines. That seems to be passing though.

                  Just some thoughts and observations - no scientific study.


                  1. re: budnball

                    This is why, as Sales Manager for a small-but-statewide wholesaler, we carried approximately a dozen different Washington State wineries, a handful of Oregon producers, and three from New York State.

                    That said, since (e.g.) BevMo carries a number of different Washington and Oregon wines, I think they are easier to find than you might think. Still, they will remain nothing more than the "proverbial" drop-in-the-bucket within California. To wit,

                    -- There were 3,364 wineries in California as of 2010. Washington State has just over 700. All the 3,364 wineries in California sell their wines within California; relatively few of the 700+ wineries in Washington sell their wines IN California.

                    -- As of 2010, Washington had 40,000 acres of wine grapes planted; California had 476,377 acres of wine grapes.

                    -- California produced 631,575,325 gallons of wine in 2009; Washington State, 28,628,000 gallons.

                    In other words, by comparison, there isn't any! ;^) But perhaps an even better comparison would be wines from Temecula and wines from the Sierra Foothills . . .

                    Finding wines from Temecula wineries WITHIN California but OUTSIDE of San Diego or Riverside Counties is almost impossible; similarly, it's extremely difficult to find a variety of wines from the Sierra Foothill wines outside of Sacramento -- the farther away you get from the immediate area, the harder it is to find the wines. It's the same in regions of Europe.