Location is so important in winemaking that some wines are named after the region they are from, not the varietal of grape. A Burgundy red would be called Pinot Noir if it was made anywhere but in the east-central region of France. Where the grape is grown is just as influential to the final product as the grape varietal.
The French term “terroir” captures the importance of the growing environment. This includes the soil, topography, climate and much more. All of these characteristics shape the wine’s aroma and flavor. These natural elements that affect agriculture are part of “terroir,” as is the tradition of winemaking. This is particularly true in Old World wine regions like the aforementioned Burgundy.
Humans have been making wine for thousands of years. Let’s travel the wine world, discovering how history, tradition and human movement have influenced what we pour from a wine bottle today.
Old World vs. New World Wine
Anthropologists believe the first wine was made in Georgia, the country, not the state, more than 8,000 years ago. As western Europe’s influence became global, their winemaking tradition followed. Today’s famous wine regions in France, Italy and Spain, among others, are considered the Old World. In these places, tradition is essential to the “terroir.”
The distinction between New World and Old World wines has been hammered out over hundreds of years of migration, colonialism and sociology. The history of winemaking in Europe has had lasting effects on the grapes and styles grown around the world. Winemakers in the Americas, Australia and South Africa used Old World grapes and techniques to build the New World.
Traditions and grapes traveled across oceans, giving us German Rieslings in upstate New York. The now-formidable wine industry in California can trace its lineage back to Spanish missionaries who brought their native grapes to the area for sacramental wine. Eventually, winemaking expanded as Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc vines from France were imported to the Americas.
Old World in modern times
There is a reason the Old World is still such a powerhouse in the wine industry: they make really good wines. When Moon Tree set out to add Moscato to its product line, Italy was the place to go.
Moscato Bianco, the grapes used in Moscato D’Asti, have grown in the Piedmont region since the 13th century. The name Moscato D’Asti translates to Moscato from Asti, a small town in Piedmont that still produces the wine today. The physical environment the grapes are grown in along with this deep connection to the place, both elevate the finished wine.
The gentle frizzante was developed in these northern Italian hills. Giovan Battista Croce, a wealthy jeweler who owned a winery near Turin, experimented with sweet wines in the 16th century. He created a technique known as the Asti Method, which is still used today.
Now, you can walk into a Pennsylvania Fine Wine & Good Spirits store and purchase Moon Tree Moscato D’Asti. Pop the cork and bring the Old World into your modern life.
The New World that isn’t all that new
The New World wineries in the United States are only new when compared to the thousands of years of winemaking history. Brotherhood Winery in Washingtonville, New York produced its first commercial vintage in 1839. This Hudson Valley institution has the distinction of America’s oldest winery.
In the same century that John Jaques started making wine in Washingtonville, German immigrants were planting Riesling grapes and adapting their winemaking to the climates of Washington, Michigan and New York.
Today, Brotherhood Riesling is the winery’s best selling and most awarded wine.
A sense of place
With wine, as in real estate, location matters. But, location isn’t just an address. The sense of place you get from a wine is tied up in location, tradition and the people who make the wine.
The next time you sip Moon Tree Moscato D’Asti, imagine yourself in the hills of Piedmont. For centuries this place has grown these grapes. The very style of wine you’re drinking was created here. Embrace the “terroir.” Lean into the tradition. But most importantly, enjoy your wine!