The Difference Between Old World and New World Wines?
There are many notable differences between old and new-world wines, one of which is a traditional approach versus a modern one. The difference in winemaking techniques, however, does not mean that wines produced in one region are superior to the other. Part of the fun is to discover the different styles that are on offer, and who knows, you may realize that you love a deep rich Texas Mourvèdre when traditionally you have been a die-hard Napa Cab lover.
Old World Wine
The first wines were produced many centuries ago in the old world. It was only when explorers started to travel the globe, they brought grape vines with them, and thus began the production of wine in the newly colonized countries.
Emphasis on using traditional practices in the vineyard and the winery are of paramount importance in the production of old-world wines. The attitude of “If it is not broken, do not fix it” is a prevalent belief among winemakers and there is great pride in the preservation of these ancient traditions.
The region and terroir (specific qualities such as the minerality, elevation, exposure, and climate of a parcel of land where the grapes are grown) are essential ingredients in the production of old-world wine. As a general rule, the winemaker believes that great terroir creates great wines. There is a firm belief that the terroir plays a more important role in the final taste of the wine than the actual varietal that is used to make it. Old-world wines are very region dependent and there are very strict regulations that dictate what wines can be made in each one.
New World Wine
New world wine is any wine that is produced outside of the geographical borders of Europe. Though there are different growing regions in each country, the rules of wine production are comparatively relaxed compared to their old-world counterparts. Many individuals in this new generation of winemakers have abandoned the practices of their old world contemporaries that are 'stuck' to tradtion, and it is more common that wine is made using science, and technology, along with a very aggressive marketing strategy to sell their wines.
There are some exceptions where new world winemakers use “old world methods” in established new world regions. The Balanced Wine Movement, which is essentially old world winemaking, has emerged in those established areas in the USA where bigger, bolder, and high alcohol wines are less fashionable than they once were. Up and coming regions like Texas and Virginia look to the old world for inspiration once again, and are now known for winemakers taking a more traditional approach to the craft.
The popularity and marketablility of the grape is often the driving force of most new-world plantings. For example, the popular Chardonnay grape from Burgundy can be produced in nearly any new world country. It is one of the unique grapes that has a sought after style in cool, moderate, and warm climates. Same grape, yet very different wines. However, there are many grapes that will not put out if the conditions are not pitch perfect. The other famed Burgundian grape, Pinot Noir, is notoriously fickle, and notoriously bad when the conditions are off. Over time New World regions figure out which grapes work best with their terroir, and which styles resonate with their consumers.
Some key characteristics between Old World and New World Wines
Does Old World Wine Age Better than New World Wine?
Where the wine was made has no impact on whether the wine will age well or not. The style and way that the wine is made will determine its aging capacity. A wine that ages well must contain:
High levels of Acidity
Good Tannin Structure
Wines with an ABV of 13.% or less tend to age better. The exception is fortified wines but they often have a higher sugar level which aids in the aging process.
Residual Sugar levels
- Sweet wines are some of the longest-living wines
What are some of the Popular Old World Wines?
Typically named after the specific region that they originate from. For example, Champagne is from the Champagne region in northern France, where only three grapes can be used. There are many that allow just one! Most of the classic wine regions do not list the grape, so one must become familiar with the wine regions of Europe and learn the styles and grapes that can be produced in that area. Here are some regoins and grapes or styles that are know from the area (not comprehensive lists)
- Burgundy (Pinot Noir, Chardonnay)
- Bordeaux (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot)
- Champagne (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier)
- Rhône (Syrah, Mourvedre, Viognier)
- Chianti (Sangiovese)
- Barolo (Nebbiolo)
- Port (Fortified wine)
- Mosel (Riesling)
- Sherry (Fortified wine)
- Rioja (Tempranillo)
What are some of the Popular New World Wines?
It is more common for new world wines to be categorized by the grape that they are made from，generally found in climates similiar to their place of origin. Here are some of the most common new world wines on the market, and the climates they are found in.
Cabernet Sauvignon (Moderate to Warm)
Sauvignon Blanc (Cool to Moderate)
Chardonnay (Cool to Warm)
Merlot (Moderate to Warm)
Malbec (Moderate to Warm)
Syrah (Moderate to Warm)
Over the past thirty years the alcohol levels of wines have generally increased and some old-world wines now have an ABV of over 14%! However, despite the higher alcohol levels, the wines still retain their classic style of being typically much softer, more elegant, tasting smoother on the palate, and having higher tannin levels than their new-world counterparts.
Once you understand the different characteristics of new and old-world wines then you will be able to decide which style of wine you prefer. The best way to learn what you like is to try as many old and new-world wines as you can. By trying wines of both different styles, you may be pleasantly surprised and may even discover that you have a more varied taste profile than you thought.