Cuisine / Wine. Foreign wines: what are they really worth?

In the footsteps of the missionaries

The first vineyards in California date back to the 17th century with the arrival of Franciscan missionaries. A century earlier, Spanish missionaries had introduced it to Argentina and Chile. The vine arrived later, in the early 19th century, in New Zealand where it was developed by a Marist missionary, Jean-Baptiste Pompallier.

Why this connection with religion? Because the missionaries needed it to celebrate the Eucharist.

The case in Australia is different, although the growth of the vine owes much to the work of James Busby, a Scottish Catholic. In South Africa, it was the Huguenots, driven out of France by the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, who implanted the chenin. Another story of religion.

New World wine competition

In the early 1990’s, with the help of globalization, these wines broke into Europe where they were welcomed with open mouths. Easy to drink, easy to understand, sold at very competitive prices, these wines, most often vinified as single-grape varieties, have attracted new consumers. In 1985, so-called New World wine exports accounted for 2.5% of trade. Twenty years later, they account for 30% of world exports. European winemakers saw red on the day a South African wine received the World’s Best White Trophy at the prestigious Brussels competition.

The movement is not ready to stop. Le vignoble chinois now ranks second in terms of volume, behind Spain. Competition is compelling, the European vineyard has made its self-criticism and started a “remontada” by betting on the quality and uniqueness of the land.


Many countries are offering more and more fine, delicate and fresh cuvées, as with these vineyards in the Andes, here in Argentina. Adobe photo stock

The wine rises to the east

The recent rise of European wines on our tables owes much to the work of importers and the interest of new, younger and less conservative consumers. It is also explained by the work of winemakers, especially in historically producing countries such as Greece, Portugal or some vineyards in Eastern Europe, which have in common that they have experienced a complicated twentieth century. .

Everywhere, winemaking techniques are advancing. Our palates are not at the end of their (good) surprise with the many indigenous varieties that force us to change our tasting habits.

Do these wines have the same benefits as French vintages?

You have to break the image of Nouveau Monde wines at very attractive, simpler and immediate prices. Many countries are offering more and more fine, delicate and fresh cuvées. We see it today with the wines of New Zealand and the vineyards of the Andes (Chile and Argentina). We’ll see it tomorrow with Mexican wines produced in Baja California.

In Europe, too, les lignes bougent. The emergence of forgotten or discreet terroirs (Moldova and Georgia, for example) and global warming, which favors some vineyards, such as Austria or Germany, are helping to open up the range.

France produces 15% of the world’s wine. This means that 85% is vinified abroad. Not being interested in them would be a mistake. Kind of like a music lover who wouldn’t listen to the Beatles or a reader who wouldn’t read Hemingway …

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