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A taste of new world winners

OLD world wine, typically represented by France, Italy and other European countries, is often described by many wine magazines as elegant, implicit and noble. However, when hope-filled wine lovers enter a wine shop, they often recoil in horror at the sight of the sky-high price tags of those old world wines. So, not surprisingly, many people prefer to embrace moderately priced wines from the new world.

After all, what most wine customers simply require is a reliable wine that tastes nice, can be paired with a particular meal and, of course, meet their budget.

When talking about new world wines, how can we ignore Napa Valley, the Southern Californian region blessed with a geographical environment conducive to growing quality wine grapes?

In 1769, Francisan missionary Father Junipero Serra planted a variety known as the Mission grape in the Napa Valley region to make wines for the church. From that simple beginning, American wine has now become world renowned for its premium quality and value.

Last week, an American wine tasting event was held at the US Consulate in Shanghai. Wine lovers and industry professionals tasted 14 wines, predominantly from Napa Valley producers. After two rounds of tasting, the 2007 Flora Springs Cabernet Sauvignon with rich layering flavors and Pahlmeyer Proprietary Red containing moderate tannins and good persistence shared the accolade of being the night's best wine.

The 2007 Flora Springs Cabernet Sauvignon is a popular selection. This charming dark purple wine exhibits all the characteristics of a classic Napa Valley wine. The front of the mouth is enveloped by the flavors of black fruits such as black cherry and currant. And the ripe flavor of cocoa gradually moves across the palate and finally turns into a soft lingering finish. The good tasting experience easily explained why Robert Parker, a leading wine critic, gave the wine 89 points.

Another wine which tastes amazing is the 2009 California Red & Gold Zinfandel, from Lodi, sometimes referred to as the wine-grape capital of California. This wine shows distinct self personality, not simple and explicit but complex, implicit and versatile. The front smell is quite strong and a little spicy. However, when the wine touches the tongue, it gradually shows its smooth and gentle nature, with crisp red berry and currant flavor and a long smooth aftertaste.

It may be because of the cold weather that the wines being tasted on this night were dominated by reds. However, there were some impressive white wines, including the Kistler Les Noisetiers Chardonnay 2006, which proved very popular among female tasters at the event. This wine has a charming light gold, shimmering appearance. The toasted hazelnut and hint of tangerine is first nose. On the palate is quite rich, with the flavor of toasted nut oil. And the finish gives the taster a little surprise, very creamy, combining the lime and hint of vanilla cookie.

But then again, no matter whether the wine is from the old world or the new, what we love is a good wine. As Keith Cheung, an experienced wine lover attending the tasting party, said, "for me, a wine that costs 600 yuan (US$91) may far exceed one priced 6,000 yuan or even higher. But the presumption is I love it."


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