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French chardonnay, led by White Burgundy Chablis, Macon, and Côte Chalonnaise, is getting in on the trend with a definitely cleaner, if not necessarily fruitier style. Less overt oak, more lees and bread dough characteristics make them more complex in the mouth, resulting in wonderful food wines.
Lobster, tuna, oysters and Caesar salad are more New World dishes, while the French prefer their chardonnay with wild salmon, turbot, sole, oysters, white bean purée and onion tarts.
New World: Benziger Chardonnay Los Carneros 2003, Carneros, California, $27
Old World: Chanson Père Pouilly-Fuissé 2003, Mâconnais, France $35
Cabernet Sauvignon gained its fame in the Bordeaux region of France, primarily in and around the Médoc where it reigns supreme. The best cabernet has abundant but soft tannins with concentration and flavour complexity. Winemakers strive to achieve blackberry, cassis, black cherry and jam fruit flavours with black pepper and earthy spice characters.
The lighter, more modern style of cab, such as those from Chile, Argentina and Australia, place more of an emphasis on fruit flavours and softer tannins. This makes them more drinkable at a young age than traditional Bordeaux or the more serious wines of California, Tuscany, Washington and, lately, Canada.
The French serve it with entrecote a la Bordelaise sauce, woodcock in red wine sauce or even pigeon with vegetables, while in the New World its a T-bone or rib-eye steak, lamb or venison with a blueberry sauce.
New World: Carmen Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2003, Valle del Maipo, Chile $20
Old World: Chateau Carignan 2003 Premières Côtes de Bordeaux, Fance, $29
Pinot Noir does anyone do it better than the French, more specifically, the vignerons of Burgundy? When the French get it right, their pinot can be mind altering.
The challenge for consumers is a blizzard of producers that share a small number of appellations. But if Burgundy was once regarded a temple of pinot noir production, its now merely a region in France that produces some of the worlds best.
After that, you can turn to an ever-growing number of regions such as Central Otago, Martinborough, Canterbury, Nelson and Marlborough in New Zealand or the Russian River, Carneros, Monterey, and Santa Barbara County in California. Throw in Oregon, Tasmania and Yarra Valley in Australia, and Leyda and Casablanca in Chile, not to mention British Columbia and Ontario. You get the picture the game is on.