Old world wine? New world wine?
You’ve probably heard those words and wondered… What?
Old World vs. New World
Old world wine grapes are grown in Europe. The European continent was full of vineyards since before the borders of modern-day countries even existed. Italian wine is older than the modern state of Italy, which was formed in 1861.
These are some of the most famous old world wine countries:
The following places count as the new world:
- North and South America
- Southern and Eastern Asia
As you might notice, this doesn’t apply to non-wine topics. The Mayan culture, were it still around, would probably dispute Central America’s newness. Anyone who knows that gunpowder was invented in China around the year 850 would laugh at the idea of calling China new.
New world wine is just wine from places that didn’t produce it until relatively late in the beverage’s history.
Traits of New vs. Old
What are the practical differences for a wine lover? When you’re sipping wine, its flavors matter more than where it’s from.
Old world wine tends to be less acidic, have earthier flavors, and have lower percentages of alcohol. New world wines are often more acidic, have fruitier flavors, and have higher proportions of alcohol.
In the old world, winemakers—called vintners—are likely to age their wine in wood types that don’t add much flavor. New world vintners often age their wine in oak, which changes the taste.
Terroir, the environment in which wine grapes are grown, explains some other differences.
Most continents do have overlaps in climate. The overlaps mean, for instance, that growing wine in Canada or Germany might result in similar flavors since both places can get very cold. If someone who makes wine in New York wants to mimic old world flavors, they might be able to.
Some things are changing. Modern climates differ from temperatures of the past. This environmental change causes unavoidable developments in the terroir of any winegrowing region.
Vintners in old world growing regions follow tradition. They copy the steps their ancestors developed over centuries. New world vintners are more likely to take advantage of modern technology.
Another big difference is that new world wines are often grown or overseen by big corporations, but European vineyards are more likely to be handed down through generations of one family.
If you look back through history, both new world and old world wines originated in Europe. No matter how many changes new world vintners make, the fact is that new world winemaking couldn’t have gotten off the ground without European traditions.
It’s a mistake to think one region’s wine is inherently better than another’s. Vineyards all over the world can produce outstanding wine.