Every now and then I get asked about Old World and New World wines: what are they and what is the difference? Certainly they are two different styles of wine, but I don’t believe one style is better than the other.
After I thought about the question, I too wanted the answers to a couple of questions. So I decided to research the question of Old World vs. New World wines and share my findings with you.
As I began my research I thought about what I knew:
- I know that Old World wines are wines made in Europe and Middle Eastern countries such as France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Lebanon, Israel, Romania and Hungary. These countries are the birth places of wine. I have tasted wine from six or seven of the countries, especially France, Italy, Spain and Germany so I issued myself the challenge of trying ones from the other countries in the future.
- I know that Old World wines are lighter-bodied than a lot of New World wines
- That Old World wines tend to be lower in alcohol than New World wines
Here is what my research revealed:
Old World Wines
As I mentioned earlier, France, Italy and Spain are some of the most popular Old World wine countries and Old World wines do tend to be lighter-bodied with lower alcohol content. They have been made for thousands of years with characteristics of earthiness, minerality, herbs and floral flavors. They also tend to have more acidity and taste less fruity. These characteristics are a generalization and not always the case.
New World Wines
New World wines refer to the newer wine making countries, many of which were colonies of their European counterparts: countries such as the United States, South America, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. New World wines have a tendency to be fuller-bodied, have bolder fruit flavors, less acidity and higher tannin levels. Some New World wines are, at times, more oaky and have less earthy flavors.
Terroir (soil, temperature, climate etc.) plays a major role in the taste of wine. Old World wine grapes are grown and harvested with a focus on the place they are grown as opposed to the grape variety. Each Old World country has different wine regions producing distinct brands of wine. For example, in France two of the most famous are the Bordeaux Region and the Burgundy Region. Each makes a distinct style of wine.
New World wines, generally speaking, have different climates (warmer) and different soils. Due to the warmer climate the grapes tend to ripen more and have more sugar content, which means higher alcohol levels.
Old World wines are typically named after the region the grapes are grown in, whereas New World wines are typically named after the main grape they are made from. For examples let’s explore some types of wines.
Types of Old World wines:
In contrast, New World wine types are:
- Cabernet Sauvignon
The next time you are in a wine shop or a restaurant with a large wine list take a bit of time to look how the wines are displayed or listed.
The labels used by the two varieties are distinctly different as well. Old World wines are labeled according to the wine region. For example Champagne comes from the Champagne region in France. This will require you to have greater knowledge of the various wine regions.
New World wine labels make it much easier to make an informed choice when selecting a wine. The labels contain the grape variety used to produce the wine. The label will simply say Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, etc.
So what does all this mean when we are purchasing wine? If you are in the mood for a lighter-bodied, subtle fruit flavor and more earthy wine, go Old World. On the other hand, if you want a full-bodied, fruit forward then I suggest you go with a New World wine. The important factor is not get too bogged down by these generalities, but to use them as a starting point to understand wine lists better or to expand your wine collection.
As always I appreciate your support of our wine blog and encourage you to share it with family and friends. If you are reading this blog for the first time please consider subscribing while you are on the website. This way you’ll get our reviews and articles in your email. If you care to share your comments on this blog posting or other topics please do so in the comments section below.
Until next week,
Calendar of Events
- June 20th – National Lambrusco Day
- August 1st – International Albariño Day
- August 18th – International Pinot Noir Day
- September 3rd – International Cabernet Day
- September 15th – International Grenache Day
- November 7th – International Merlot Day
- November 12th – International Tempranillo Day
- November 15th – International Zinfandel Day
- December 16th – National Wine Club Day
- December 20th – National Sangria Day
- December 31st – National Champagne Day