Many wine lovers get passionate when discussing the comparative virtues of old world wine and new world wine. For people new to these terms, old world wine comes from France, Germany, Austria, Italy and Spain, the classic wine-making regions of Europe. New world wine comes from everywhere else.
So why do people get so excited about this topic? Pride is a key reason. Every country believes they make the best wine. So if you come from France, your old world wine is the best. If you come from New Zealand, your new world wine is the best.
Beyond the emotion that comes into play, there are distinct differences between old world and new world wine that I will highlight in the simplified table below.
|Old World Wine
||New World Wine
|Time in the business||More than 2,000 years||Less than 200 years|
|Focus||Terroir (the growing environment for the grapes) – with thousands of years of wine-making experience, the Old World knows exactly what grapes grow best in what places. The Old World treats terroir as the numero one factor when it comes to determining a wine’s characteristics and quality.||Technology – Not having thousands of years of wine-making experience, the New World relies heavily on technology to ensure quality.|
|Alcohol||Lower in alcohol due to cooler growing climates. The cooler climates result in less ripe grapes with less sugar that can be converted into alcohol.||Higher in alcohol due to warmer growing climates.|
|Fruity or earthy||Old World wines are more earthy.||New World wines are more fruity.|
|Sweet or dry||Old World wines tend to be drier.||New World wines tend to have a hint of residual sugar, even if it’s a dry wine, to accommodate our love of wine with a hint of sugar.|
|Age worthiness||Old World wines have a reputation of being more age worthy.||New World wines have a reputation of being ready to drink now.|
|Wine identification||Wines are named using the region name (e.g., Burgundy). If you’re in the Burgundy region of France and you’re drinking a Red Burgundy, you’re drinking a Pinot but calling it a Red Burgundy.||Wines are named using the grape name (e.g., Pinot Noir).|
|Wine style||Old World wines are more subtle and restrained.||New World wines are bolder and more fruit forward.|
|Food friendliness||Old World wines are very food friendly. Wine’s primary purpose is to enhance the taste of the food.||New World wines are not as food friendly. Wine’s primary purpose is enjoyment|
In recent years, the lines between the Old World and the New World are blurring. For example, you can find many New World wines that are made in an Old World style. With the relaxation of Old World classification laws that limit winemakers’ practices, you can also find Old World wines that are more characteristic of New World wines.
It’s a lot of fun to do a blind tasting of Old World wines and New World wines and try to guess which ones are which. If you have done this, please share your experiences with us. Were you able to figure out which wines were which? What wines gave you the most difficulty? Do you have any advice for us?