We often get fascinated by the mention of old world wines, with the name itself carrying a unique charm. Thus, when given a choice—old world vs new world wines—we quite often pick the former without even knowing the difference. In this blog post, we’re going to talk about the two, from misconceptions to actual distinctions, everything one needs to know about.
Old World vs New World Wines—The Definition
Old world wines are those that come from countries lying in Europe and the Middle East (Places considered to be the birthplace of wines) like France, Greece, Israel, Italy, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Hungary, Romania and Switzerland. On the contrary, winemaking in new world wine countries like Australia and the US was introduced much later during (or after) the age of exploration. These countries were colonies of the former and hence, here the wine industry came into existence under colonial rule.
Some General Differences
Although the distinction lies in the place of origin, people over the years have found some common threads to identify and differentiate the old world from new world wines.
Naming: Generally old world wines are named after the region they are produced in (like the famous Champagne and the Bordeaux blend) while the other carries the name of the grape variety used.
Laws: Many old world wine regions have strict laws that govern the winemaking process. Again, for eg., Champagne production requires the winemaker to follow certain regulations. The latter is known for experiments and trying new things. New world winemakers, might as well use old world techniques or a combination of both.
Characters: Sipping a glass of French wine or from regions alike, you may find some common characteristics like lighter body and floral, earthy, herbal and mineral notes. On the other hand, wines from regions like the US or Australia are more alcoholic and fruit centred with oak influence.
Terroir: New world wine regions are warmer (resulting in riper fruit) as compared to the old world regions which are characterised by cool climate.
Bursting the Misconceptions
To begin with, the most common misconception around it is that the two are different wine styles. You may have noticed many new world wine producers making Bordeaux-style blends. That said, it will still be categorised as a new world wine. The actual distinction rather lies in the place it is sourced from and not the wine style.
Another is the winemaking techniques and practices. Old-world winemaking is often associated with traditional techniques like hand harvesting, foot crushing grapes, oak barrel fermentation… On the other hand, new-world winemaking makes us think of mechanical processing that involves machine harvesters, crushers, stainless steel fermenters and so on. The aforementioned definition again plays a major role here, contrasting this misconception. In fact, these days there is a growing inclination towards traditional techniques with even new-world winemakers boasting the fact that the grapes have been hand-picked or foot-crushed.