When diving in to the big bad world of wine, it won’t be long before you hear somebody throwing around the terms “Old World” and “New World”. This is a simple distinction that people make depending on where exactly a wine is produced. And, thankfully, the dividing line here is relatively simple.
The “Old World” refers to the European regions that first began producing wine thousands of years ago; think France, Spain and Italy. The “New World” contains regions like California, Australia and South Africa where the practice of making wine wasn’t heard of until Europeans set out to colonise the world and brought their love of homemade hooch with them.
So what’s the difference?
There are some loose truths about the differences in the qualities of wines form the Old and New worlds.
For starters, the European countries have been making the stuff for millennia and have developed some heavily set principles on what wine should taste like. For that reason the wine industries in these countries tend to be heavily regulated with strict sets of processes that must be followed.
This isn’t so much the case in the new world, where a comparative lack of regulations has led to a wine industry that is much more open to experimentation and getting a little freakier with their grapes and flavour profiles.
OK, OK – but how do they taste?
This one’s a little trickier as the lines are definitely blurrier, but some general principles do hold.
These are usually extensions of the differences we’ve already mentioned as well as down to climate factors. Old World wines still tend to place an emphasis on what’s known as “terroir”, an old school wine concept that demands wines reflect their region they are grown in from soil to vine to grape. This results in wines that are earthy with a high minerality and tend to have lower alcohol content and lighter bodies.
Out in the New World the focus is placed more squarely on the grape itself. This tends to lead to wines that place more emphasis on the fruitiness in their profiles. There is also the small fact that New World wine regions tend to be hotter than Old World ones. This means a level of ripeness in the grapes that is rarely attained in Old World countries. That again means more fruitiness in the wine as well as a higher level of sugar, which contributes not only to the generally sweeter nature of New World wine but also its higher alcohol content.
So which is better?
That’s up to you guys. These are just principles, and the lines are blurry as of late, with New World regions experimenting with more Old World practices from time to time as their attention to tradition becomes trendy again. But ultimately every region has something to offer.