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!
What Are Old World and New World Wines?
The terms ‘Old World’ and ‘New World’ for wine are used to provide a general geographic distinction based on where wine was originally produced in ancient times and where wine has been produced from around the 15th-century onwards. Therefore, Old World wines generally refer to those produced in European and Mediterranean countries, whereas places including Australia, New Zealand, USA, Argentina, Chile and South Africa will be referred to as New World wines.
Because of this, Old World wines are commonly considered to be more traditional in terms of their production technique, with grapes being hand-picked from old vines, whereas New World wines are more likely to have been created using new approaches, for example, utilising technologies to help with harvesting. Rather than one approach being better than the other, the differences in these production practices are more down to rules and regulations. Many Old World wine-making regions have regulations in place regarding the ways their wine can be produced, labelled and sold, while New World wines do not have such restrictions imposed upon them, giving them the freedom to be planted and produced as desired by the winemaker.
Style of Old World and New World Wines
Due to these differences in production and location, Old World and New World has also come to mean something about the style of a particular wine, rather than solely about the location. Old World wines, which are largely European, are typically lighter wines with lower alcohol levels, while New World wines are often bigger and bolder, with a higher alcohol content and sweet, fruity flavours. This is largely down to the environment in which these wines are grown; grapes grown in Argentina (New World) are going to get more sun, and so be riper, sweeter and more alcoholic, than those grown in France (Old World).
The environment in which the vines are grown, or terroir, is a very important factor for Old World wines, with winemakers taking great consideration into the placement of vines in specific soil types. For New World wines, the terroir is generally treated as a less important factor. Another difference between wine style is that Old World wines are often made to be aged before they are drunk, whereas New World wines are ready to drink when they are bottled.
Naming of Old World and New World Wine
Another significant difference between Old and New World wines is the way in which bottles are named and labelled. Old World wines are typically named after the region in which they were produced, whereas New World wines will usually be named after the main grape varietal used in the wine. This can cause some confusion, as a wine can be more or less the same but have a very different sounding name. For example, a red Burgundy from France and a Pinot Noir from New Zealand will be very similar, as both are made primarily from the Pinot Noir grape.
As mentioned, 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.
Influence of Old World and New World Wine
The difference between Old World and New World wines is starting to become less obvious, as winemakers from each region begin to use the other as inspiration. When Old World wines began to lose trade to countries such as Australia, many winemakers started to add innovative new methods to their traditional practices. New World wines have started paying more attention to the role that terroir makes, as well as producing wines in the style of those produced in Old World countries, such as France.
Is Old World or New World Wine Better?
There has been some snobbery regarding the terms, with New World sometimes being used as something of a negative descriptor. While both regions produce incredible wines, some will automatically consider New World wines to be less elegant and refined than Old World wines, believing them to be more commercial in comparison. For the most part, however, wine lovers are happy to try wines from both categories, allowing them a more varied choice in flavour and style for their favourite sip!
Do you have more Old World or New World wine in your wine cabinet? Let us know which type you prefer by leaving a comment below!