What’s the difference between New World and Old World wines?

When reading about or discussing wine, you are likely to have come across the terms ‘Old World’ and ‘New World’ to describe a specific bottle. We take a look at what Old World and New World mean for wine and what you can expect when you take a sip of them!

History issue

Old world wines are from countries or regions where winemaking (with Vitis vinifera grapes) first originated. New world wines are from countries or regions where winemaking (and Vitis vinifera grapes) were imported during (and after) the age of exploration.

These days, the terms “Old World” and “New World” can take on even broader connotations and spark debates among wine lovers, usually about tradition vs. modernization. “Old World” implies tradition, history, and an “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” mentality, while the term “New World” invokes technology, science, corporations and marketing.

Geographic issue

The most basic difference between Old World and New World wines is geographic: “Old World” refers to the traditional winegrowing regions of Europe, while “New World” refers to everything else.

So, old world wine countries include: France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Austria, Hungary, and Germany. Also, based on the definition, countries like Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, and Moldova are also able to be considered old world wine regions too!

New world wine countries include: the United States, Australia, South Africa, Chile, Argentina, and New Zealand are New World wine regions. Also, based on the definition, China, India, and Japan are new world wine regions.

Terroir issue

Old World wines take great care in choosing the ideal terroir for their vines, as it is believed by many Old World wineries that, ultimately, the terroir has more of an influence on the resulting wine than the grape varietals used. By that logic, a Cabernet Sauvignon produced in one region of France may taste quite different to a bottle produced in another region of France, or indeed, from another country, due to the different terroir. As such, their wines are named after the region in which they are produced, rather than the grape varietal used.

This is why we have, for example, German wine labelling that includes the vineyard name in the wine’s name and the many grand and premier crus of Burgundy, not just Pinot Noir.
‘Similarly in Italy it’s not all just Nebbiolo, but Barolo and Roero. In the New World, varietal labeling still dominates.’ He added that, despite California’s proliferation of AVAs, subregional characteristics in the wine need to better identified.

Style issue

These distinctions can also refer to differences in style. The climates of New World wine regions are often warmer, which tends to result in riper, more alcoholic, full-bodied and fruit-centered wines. These wines are often made in a more highly extracted and oak-influenced style.

Old World wines tend to be lighter-bodied, exhibiting more herb, earth, mineral and floral components. While these are gross generalizations, that’s how these terms are commonly used.

If you come in contact with a person who sweepingly says they only drink one style or the other, share your knowledge and remind them that both styles have wonderful things to offer.

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