Ever been to a wine tasting or had a conversation with someone who uses wine terms like: New versus Old World Wines, AVA, or tartrates/tartaric crystals? Have you been embarrassed to ask what these terms mean… or have you been curious and wanted to learn more? 1.) DO NOT be embarrassed to ask questions. 2.) Satisfy that curiosity. I recommend adding the book The New Wine Lover’s Companion by Ron Herbst and Sharon Tyler Herbst to your bookshelf or by your wine rack.
I received this book with my Exploring the Business of Wine class registration at George Mason University — and it was a great compliment to the class! Whenever I had a question about a term used, I just pulled out my book and BAM! a clear answer. I felt my wine-vocab growing by the minute. The terms are defined cross the wine-world and range from growth and production terminology, to grape varietals, classification, descriptive terms and more.
I have the third edition, released in 2010. Older editions were released in 2003 and 1995. You can find the paperback 3rd edition on Amazon for less than $14.00. It really is not a bad deal for a book that has the answers to those probing questions! So to answer those above:
New World Wine is a technique, referencing non-European countries producing wines (including the United States). Science is the key here. (pg. 357)
Old World Wine is a traditional, European wine technique. (pg. 368)
AVA or American Verticultural Area is a geographic classification to identify US wines, with regulations on classification based on the percentage of grapes in a bottle from that area. (pg. 20) I recently moved to the Northern Neck of Virginia, and we have our own AVA: Northern Neck George Washington Birthplace AVA – and surprise! This description is in the book too, defining the Northern Neck peninsula from Fredericksburg east, between the Potomac River and the Rappahannock River. Now, there is some dated information since the printing of this book with the fast-growing Virginia wine industry. When this book was printed, the authors noted Ingleside Vineyards as the only winery in the area (now, there are around 10!) (pg. 361)
Tartrates or tartaric crystals are those little salt-like crystals you may see floating in your wine glass or collecting on the cork of a wine when you open certain bottles. (ex: I see these when I open my Paradise Springs Norton) These are okay to drink, but can be strained out if you would like. They are a by-product of the wine production process. (pg. 512)
This book pairs great with a wine tasting or wine festival. I am surprised how often I find myself referencing it! I highly recommend as a go-to source for wine questions and answers.